The AP Interview: US Trade Representative. sees opportunity in recovery | Business

BANGKOK — With the world’s economies all suffering from more than two years of the coronavirus pandemic and global supply problems exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has an “incredible opportunity” to s ‘engage with other nations on a common playing field and forge new partnerships and agreements, the top U.S. trade negotiator told The Associated Press on Friday.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai arrived in Thailand for meetings with trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, the same day President Joe Biden kicked off an Asia visit to South Korea.

The two are to partner in Japan, where they are to announce plans for a new Indo-Pacific economic framework, which Tai said would above all demonstrate “the continued commitment of the United States as a partner of the countries of this region. as Washington seeks to control China’s growing influence.

“It’s a robust, holistic approach to economics and mutual investment that we bring,” she said.

It will include a commitment on supply chain stability, clean energy, decarbonization, taxes and anti-corruption measures, she said.

Even before the announcement, expected on Monday, Japan had welcomed the initiative, expressing support on Friday and saying it was considering joining.

Tokyo is still sensitive to the US decision in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and played a key role in bringing together the other 11 members of this pact, now known as the Global Compact and the Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs, said that since IPEF is expected to be less focused on market access and tariffs, Tokyo still hopes the US will join the TPP, even though Washington has said he wouldn’t.

But even if there isn’t the promise of greater access to U.S. markets like in traditional trade deals, the IPEF will still have the effect of increasing opportunity, Tai said.

“We are not conducting discussions and negotiations around tariff liberalisation,” she said. “But simply put, when we talk about access to markets and market opportunities, that’s absolutely part of our conversation.”

Tai, who is seen as a problem-solving pragmatist in trade policy, said US policy has shifted from globalization for its own sake to one that puts security and interests first. workers as well as consumers.

Prior to her appointment as USTR, Tai served as chief trade adviser for the House Ways and Means Committee, where she managed negotiations on a revamped North American trade deal.

One of the main goals was to reshape the pact to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and demand better wages and benefits. That could reduce incentives for U.S. companies to move manufacturing south of the border to take advantage of cheaper labor.

With all the current disruptions in the global economy, including the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which has caused food and fuel prices to rise, she said her counterparts with whom she spoke in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Group currently meeting in Thailand has been enthusiastic about the idea of ​​a new economic framework that could help workers and businesses.

“I don’t think anyone’s economy is stronger because of COVID and there’s a pretty widespread sense of anxiety about how we recover,” she said. “I actually think it presents an incredible opportunity.”

She said her counterparts speak of the need for “resilience, sustainability and inclusion”.

“As we are all looking for these themes in our economic policies right now, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for us to come together to forge a set of parameters in our global economy to allow us to build a new economic world order that will be more adaptive, more inclusive and more sustainable for our planet and for our people.

She said the US in Asia was “very, very focused on our competition with China” and the framework was also seen as an effective way to counter Beijing’s growing influence.

“The United States will always bring an economic commitment anchored in our values, that is to say in terms of openness, vis-à-vis our market and our economy, and also vis-à-vis our society,” she said. “So the engagement that we will bring will inherently be inherently different from China’s engagement in the region. I think that’s an important part of the American presence in this region, that we bring an open and grassroots approach on the market.

Tai favors a comprehensive approach to ongoing trade issues with China and pushed back against US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s calls for the elimination of some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods to combat the domestic inflation in the United States.

She said she saw tariffs as “one tool in the economic policy toolbox” that could be considered, but alongside “many other tools at our disposal.”

“What is of the utmost importance to us is ensuring that this mid-term strategic realignment that we know we need to accomplish is something that we are capable of accomplishing, and nothing that we we do in the short term only compromises that larger goal,” she said.

“We cannot afford to come out of this very difficult period by putting ourselves in the United States in a more vulnerable position than we were in before entering this period.”

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