By MacKenzie C. Babb
Washington — The United States is “aiming high” with its Asia-Pacific partners to address 21st-century trade challenges and enhance regional trade ties and economic cooperation, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in Singapore.
“Our broad goal is to continue making progress toward a vibrant, seamless regional economy because with global supply chains clustered around the Pacific Rim, trade barriers around the region now affect … all economies worldwide,” Kirk said in prepared remarks at Singapore Management University April 26.
“Similarly, we are committed to increasing transparency, good governance and the rule of law, all of which are fundamental to the smooth functioning of open markets,” he said. “And we are seeking ways to enhance development so that the benefits of trade can be shared more broadly.”
Kirk said a significant step toward meeting each of these goals will be the conclusion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an “ambitious regional trade agreement” that seeks to open trade in the Asia-Pacific area to support new jobs, strengthen regional relations and eventually create a free-trade area. It also sets modern trade standards, including ensuring worker rights and environmental protections. Created in 2006 by Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, negotiations on the deal have grown to include Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam.
The trade representative said partners are working to promote efficiency through more coordinated regulation, to break down unnecessary barriers to trade and to enhance the “growth and vibrancy of the digital economy” to ensure the free flow of information among partner countries.
He said the partners are working toward an agreement “that is both durable and flexible.” The agreement will remain open to new entrants, and the partners are in consultations with Japan, Canada and Mexico regarding their interest and readiness to join the deal.
The TPP participants are also “actively considering how to ensure trade and development are inclusive,” Kirk said. In addition to helping both developed and developing economies meet the obligations of the high-standard agreement, Kirk said partner economies are addressing the development concerns of workers and small businesses “by designing new ways to ensure that the benefits of trade agreements can be shared more broadly in each of our countries.”
Kirk said the final goal of the TPP is to “build a free-trade area in the Asia-Pacific, an achievement that would bring tremendous benefits to the countries in the region and the global economy.”
He said the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional economic institutions are serving as “complementary platforms in pursuit of these shared goals.”
Additionally, the partner nations are working closely with multilateral groups such as the World Trade Organization to ensure effective trade enforcement around the world, which Kirk said is “essential to keep the global economy running smoothly.”
Kirk said the enhanced economic, financial and trade ties between the United States and the Asia-Pacific region will boost the global economy and help to create new and better jobs for people around the world.
The TPP members met for negotiations in March, and will meet again for the 12th formal round of talks in May.