U.S. Lurks as Spoiler Threat at Asia-Pacific Trade TalksBy
Negotiators from Asia-Pacific nations are gathered in Vietnam to push forward trade deals while mindful that the U.S. could be a spoiler as it toughens its stance.
“Trade has been an issue where the drafting has become somewhat more complicated in the last few international meetings,” Angel Gurria, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development secretary general, said in an interview on Friday. “This is something we still are trying to find, I think, common ground.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a harder line on global trade deals, withdrawing earlier this year from the Trans-Pacific Partnership as he pushes for an “America First” policy. Amid growing uncertainty, ministers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hoi An are debating the way forward.
“The easy issues are always resolved first,” Gurria said on the sidelines of the APEC finance ministers meeting, when asked about the content of a joint statement set for release Saturday. “In the wee hours of the night, you take on the impossible ones.’’
U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass said the trade discussions were “very constructive” even as the U.S. delegation takes a fresh tack on global trade policy from the previous administration.
“I think there’s a common interest in growth and trade among all, and in more investment -- the issue is how do you find ways that work for both sides,” Malpass told reporters. “All those trading relationships are evolving, as we look for ways to have trade relationships that work for American workers as well as for our trading partners.”
Global trade is expanding at about 3.5 percent annually, the same as the world economy, when it should be twice that, Gurria said. Recent data show trade is picking up, and the OECD has judged that it’s “better, but not good enough,” he said.
Japan is working with Vietnam and other nations to reach an early agreement for a TPP deal even without the U.S., Yasuhisa Nakao, deputy vice minister for international affairs in Japan’s finance ministry, said in an interview.
“Japan is still looking for a good possibility of having this TPP-11 trade deal as early as possible”, he said, referring to the number of nations potentially included in the deal. No matter what bilateral trade agreements or other trade negotiations are going on, TPP is still Japan’s priority, he said.
— With assistance by Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, and Sebastian Tong