U.S. Aims to Reshape World Trade Rules with Regional Pacts Says VP Biden

By | April 10, 2013

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 on Friday.

“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 said in a speech at the U.S. 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 United States 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 percent of world economic output.

The United States needs to aggressively pursue new trade opportunities in the Asia-Pacific because the region could accounts for as much as 60 percent 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 United States also plans to launch trade talks with the 27-nation European Union in June.

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

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

The two big U.S. trade initiatives come as the Doha round of world trade talks, launched more than ten 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 U.S. frustration with China over the theft of U.S. 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.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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