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US To Advance Trade Talks With ASEAN

by Leroy Baker,, New York

19 November 2007

US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab traveled to Singapore on November 18 to meet with Economic Ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and discuss progress made under the US-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

“ASEAN countries together are our fifth largest trading partner, and Southeast Asia is one of the most rapidly growing, economically vibrant regions in the world,” Ambassador Schwab announced ahead of the trip. She continued: “I look forward to the first formal meeting with my ASEAN colleagues since we signed our TIFA a year ago. We can take pride in the solid progress achieved so far and set our agenda for the coming year.”

During her meetings, Schwab is discussing with ASEAN ministers, as well as her counterparts from Japan and Korea, how best to advance the WTO Doha negotiations. She says that the United States is committed to achieving a successful outcome to these negotiations, which will create significant new economic opportunities and growth worldwide.

Following her meetings in Singapore, Ambassador Schwab will visit Cambodia to hold talks under the US-Cambodia TIFA, and explore ways to build on the recent growth in trade and investment relations between the two countries. She will also discuss Cambodia’s implementation of its commitments under the US-Cambodia Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and its WTO accession agreement, as well as other trade-related issues.

This will be the second TIFA meeting with Cambodia, which is witnessing rapid economic growth that is expected to reach more than 9% this year. Two-way trade totaled $2.3 billion in 2006, an increase of 23% relative to 2005. The United States has been working to support Cambodia’s implementation of its BTA and WTO commitments, as well as its efforts to improve its investment climate.

ASEAN Members include Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Trade between the United States and ASEAN has grown significantly during the past decade, and ASEAN was the fourth largest export market for the United States in 2006, with US exports totaling $57 billion. In addition, US foreign direct investment in ASEAN countries reached $83.4 billion in 2005 (the latest available data), up 6% from the previous year.

In 2002, President Bush announced the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI), which sought to further strengthen US trade and investment ties to ASEAN, both regionally and bilaterally. The EAI offers the prospect of free trade agreements (FTAs) with ASEAN members that are WTO members and have a bilateral TIFA with the United States. The United States has used these TIFAs to address bilateral issues and to coordinate on regional and multilateral issues.

The United States concluded an FTA with Singapore in 2003 and is currently negotiating an FTA with Malaysia. The FTA negotiations with Thailand are on hold until a democratically-elected government is in place. The United States has active dialogues under its TIFAs with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.

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