US to seek tougher labor and environmental standards in Asia

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By PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States outlines its goals for a new trade deal with Australia, Japan, South Korea and nine other countries meant to signal the country’s commitment to working with the Indo-Pacific region in a time of growing Chinese influence.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday released its negotiating objectives for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, an agreement with the 12 nations launched in May.

Among them, the United States wants Indo-Pacific countries to improve their labor and environmental standards and ensure their markets remain open to competition, while taking steps to reduce supply chain backlogs. at border crossings.

After the Trump administration’s clashes with US allies, Asian countries have welcomed America’s re-engagement in the region, which also comes at a time of significant economic disruption stemming from COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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But many were disappointed that the framework did not reduce tariffs or give signatories better access to the US market.

The Obama administration had negotiated a comprehensive trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But President Donald Trump, saying the TPP and similar trade deals threaten American jobs, pulled out of the deal in his first week in office. The other countries advanced without the United States.

The Biden administration has no intention of joining the trade bloc and instead promotes the Indo-Pacific framework. Critics see the deal as a vague alternative to the TPP.

Still, the administration noted that the countries involved in the framework — including Brunei, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — account for 40% of global GDP.

“The future of the 21st century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific,” the trade office said on Friday. The framework “will help spur sustainable growth for all our economies”.

The Biden administration has said its trade team will also seek to promote digital trade, among other things.

The USTR manages the commercial aspects of the framework. The Department of Commerce oversees three other umbrella initiatives involving improving supply chains and promoting a green economy and “equitable” growth that emphasizes the rule of law and labor rights. work.

Copyright 2022 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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