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Kirk Explains US Asia-Pacific Trade Policy

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

01 May 2012

In remarks at Singapore Management University, the United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk described the Administration’s broad trade policy in the Asia-Pacific region as using the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to make further progress with its trading partners around the Pacific Rim.

He recalled that “nearly ten years ago, we worked together to secure the US-Singapore trade agreement, which was the most ambitious of its generation. Since then, we have joined with you and seven other Asia-Pacific countries – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam – to negotiate the TPP. This ambitious regional trade agreement grew from the so-called P4 agreement that Singapore pioneered in 2005 along with Chile, New Zealand and Brunei.”

“When President Obama announced here at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2009 that the US was joining TPP,” he stressed, “it was a significant early sign of our serious commitment to active US engagement with the Asia-Pacific region”.

He emphasized how the countries in the TPP negotiations are working to “update an open regional trading system for the 21st century,” with new and cross-cutting trade issues that will have “significant implications for enhancing regional trade integration and economic growth”.

For example, to promote efficiency, the TPP partners are working together to develop a regional agreement with more common rules and more seamless regulation that will make it easier and more efficient to trade in goods, agriculture, and services and to promote the growth of the digital economy, including cloud computing, which particularly benefits small- and medium-sized enterprises. "For example, we are working to ensure the free flow of information and of data through the TPP region without unwarranted restrictions,” he said.

“As we address critical next generation trade issues,” he added, “TPP partners are seeking an agreement that is both durable and flexible. That is why we are developing an agreement that is open to new entrants. Currently, TPP partners are continuing consultations with Japan, Canada, and Mexico regarding their interest and readiness to join TPP.”

In addition, he also confirmed that the US government’s ultimate aim is to construct a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), but it recognized that the TPP could not be the only means for a diverse array of Asia-Pacific economies to enhance regional trade and investment. "In fact, we believe that APEC, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and other regional economic institutions are serving as complementary platforms in pursuit of these shared goals,” he observed.

In particular, Kirk pointed out that the US is seeking to complete the next stages in APEC’s work on environmental goods and services liberalization, a market-driven model to promote innovation, supply chain performance and the realignment of regulations among its economies.

With ASEAN, there may be an opportunity for the US to work with all ten ASEAN members in new ways that recognize the “unique role” that ASEAN plays in the Asia-Pacific region, he added. “Since 2006 the US-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Agreement has served to deepen our relations and support ASEAN integration, including ASEAN’s goal of becoming a single economic community by 2015,” Kirk noted.

He also pointed to the work between the US and its Asia-Pacific trading partners to expand the World Trade Organization (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA) by eliminating tariffs on additional information and communications technology (ICT) goods, in response to the rapid growth of supply chains for ICT products across the region.

In his opinion, a successful ITA expansion negotiation would provide a much needed boost to world economic recovery. "In fact, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation estimates that expanding ITA product coverage could add up to USD190bn to global gross domestic product annually. Consequently, I urge all of our Asia-Pacific partners to accelerate their (ITA) preparations before the launch of negotiations at the WTO,” Kirk said.

He also insisted that the US sees China as an integral participant in the development of a cohesive regional economy "if it opens its market with the same dedication that has characterized its pursuit of entry into other countries’ markets over the past decade”.

He confirmed that the Administration will explore all issues further with China through bilateral dialogues such as the Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade, as well as the Strategic & Economic Dialogue. "And when we have trade disputes, the US will continue to seek resolution with China or any other trading partner through available dispute settlement tools, such as those offered by the WTO,” he said.

TAGS: environment | tax | Brunei | Chile | law | tariffs | Australia | China | Mexico | Singapore | internet | trade disputes | Canada | Malaysia | New Zealand | Peru | United States | regulation | trade | Japan | Vietnam | services

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