Biden to stress APEC economic ties, as trade deal stumbles

 – President Joe Biden will highlight strong US ties to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum economies on Thursday, despite a failure to make progress on key trade provisions sought by regional countries.

Mr. Biden, who held a high-stakes summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, is due to address a summit of CEOs on Thursday before speaking to leaders from the 21-member APEC gathered in San Francisco for the organization’s annual summit.

Mr. Biden will also take part in an event with the 14-member Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) that his administration established to bolster economic engagement after former President Donald Trump quit a long-negotiated regional trade pact in 2017.

US hopes for an IPEF trade deal were dashed this week, after members could not agree on improving labor and environmental standards or compliance, people briefed on the talks said.

In remarks to APEC leaders, Mr. Biden will highlight US progress to combat climate change, call for collective APEC action, and “demonstrate this administration’s commitment to deepening economic engagement with the region,” a senior US official told journalists.

US exports to the region have grown 12%, 60% of U.S. exports are sent to a fellow APEC economy, and APEC members have invested $1.7 trillion into the US economy since 2016, the official said.

He said leaders of Japan, Vietnam and Singapore would join Biden at an IPEF event and highlight progress in reaching an agreement on supply chains. The official said the IPEF countries would “substantially conclude” clean economy and fair economy agreements.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier on Thursday IPEF countries had agreed on several “pillars” of the IPEF initiative, covering cooperation on clean energy and anti-corruption measures. Ministers also formally signed a previously agreed text of a third pillar, covering supply chain resiliency.

Biden plans to emphasize his administration’s efforts to advance workers’ rights in remarks on Thursday, the U.S. official said. He said Biden was “committed to ensuring high labor standards, bringing workers’ voices decision making table and enforcing rules against unfair labor practices.”

Asked how long the IPEF trade pillar could take to conclude, the official said most negotiations take years but the US administration had said it would be working on an “accelerated timeline.”

Mr. Biden will note that companies based in other APEC economies had invested more than $200 billion into the US since the start of his administration, the official said, and that U.S. companies have invested at least $40 billion in other APEC economies in 2023 alone.

APEC members have been closely watching developments between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals, concerned that ever more intense competition could upset global trade and security.

On Wednesday might in San Francisco, executives from top US firms dined with Mr. Xi after his talks with Mr. Biden aimed at steadying relations.

China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States, Mr. Xi told them, and he said there was plenty of room for bilateral cooperation, part of a charm offensive to reassure global business and counter his country’s struggles to entice foreign investment. – Reuters

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