Bloomberg | Nov 14, 2010
US puts ’foot to the pedal’ to conclude Asia trade deal, USTR Kirk says
By Kathleen Chu and Daniel Ten Kate
The U.S. is pushing to complete trade talks with nine Asia-Pacific countries by late next year that lays the groundwork for a bigger agreement that includes China, Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.
The U.S. aims to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership by next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in Honolulu, Kirk said in a telephone interview today in Yokohama, Japan, where he attended the APEC forum. TPP members aim to create “the most forward-leaning high-standard trade agreement ever engaged in,” he said.
“We just want to keep our foot to the pedal and see how far we can get to closure by the time we convene next year,” Kirk said, adding that five rounds of talks are scheduled for 2011. “What we are ultimately creating will become the Free-Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific.”
President Barack Obama is pushing to open Asian markets to U.S. companies in an effort to double exports in five years. He heads back to the U.S. today after a 10-day trip to the region, during which he was unable to secure a trade deal with South Korea on differences over beef and autos.
“U.S. beef has been shut out of most of Southeast Asia for the last 10 years, and so we are looking for re-entry into this market, not only in Korea but in Japan and China and others,” Kirk said.
APEC leaders pledged today to take “concrete steps” toward the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. The 21 economies, including China, account for about half of the world’s gross domestic product and 40 percent of global population and trade, according to APEC’s website.
‘Very Much Welcomed’
Obama yesterday said he “very much welcomed” Japan’s interest in joining talks on the TPP, which would be the largest U.S. trade accord since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. The talks now include the U.S., Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Vietnam, Peru, and Malaysia.
So far there have been three rounds of talks on the TPP that have included the U.S.. Discussions have centered on issues such as how the partnership would interact with existing agreements.
The “gravitational pull” of a successful TPP “will lead to the practical conclusion that this becomes the vehicle by which we rationalize and liberalize trade” in the region, Kirk said.