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US aims to reshape world trade rules with regional pacts, says Biden

April 06, 2013

WASHINGTON, April 6 — The United States hopes to use a proposed regional free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific and another with the European Union to reshape global rules for trade, Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday.

“Our goal is for high standards for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to enter the bloodstream of the global system and improve the rules and norms,” Biden (picture) said in a speech at the US Export-Import Bank’s annual meeting.

“What we’re talking about is shaping a new standard that then becomes the metric by which all future trade agreements are measured,” Biden said of the pacts.

The US and 10 other countries hope to finish the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement by the end of the year, and could welcome an important 12th country — Japan — into the negotiations in coming weeks.

Japan’s addition would boost the proposed agreement to one covering nearly 40 per cent of world economic output.

The US needs to aggressively pursue new trade opportunities in the Asia-Pacific because the region could accounts for as much as 60 per cent of world economic growth over the next five years, Biden said.

“The world’s economic engine has shifted eastward and we know that it is in Asia where much of the opportunity in the 21st century will be found,” he said.

The TPP pact, in addition to phasing out tariffs on manufactured and agricultural goods, aims to “break new ground” in other areas, such as establishing rules covering the trade activities of state-owned enterprises and the movement of electronic data across borders, Biden said.

The US also plans to launch trade talks with the 27-nation European Union in June.

The US and the EU already have a US$5 trillion (RM15 trillion) trade and investment relationship, which “is far and away the world’s largest,” Biden said.

The talks are an opportunity for the US to tackle “behind the border” regulatory barriers that impede trade in agriculture, manufacturing and other areas, he said.

The two big US trade initiatives come as the Doha round of world trade talks, launched more than 10 years ago, remains dead in the water.

That has prompted countries all over the world to pursue new market openings through bilateral and regional pacts.

Biden also referred to US frustration with China over the theft of US trade secrets through cyber attacks and other means, although he did not mention the country by name.

“Increasingly we’re seeing wholesale theft of confidential business information and propriety technology through cyber intrusion. And that has to stop,” Biden said. — Reuters 

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