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Preview of U.S. Priorities for APEC

Preview of U.S. Priorities for APEC

Ambassador Patricia Haslach, U.S. Senior Official for APEC, Bureau of East Asian & Pacific Affairs

Foreign Press Center Briefing

Washington, DC

November 10, 2008

2:00 P.m. EDT

Date: 11/10/2008 Location: Washington, D.C. Description: Ambassador Patricia Haslach, U.S. Senior Official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation 9APEC), Bureau of East Asian Pacific Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, Briefing at the Washington FPC on "Preview of U.S. Priorities for APEC." State Dept PhotoMODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today's briefing is on U.S. priorities for APEC, and we're happy to have Ambassador Patricia Haslach, the U.S. senior official for APEC, here to speak with us today.

Two quick reminders: If you could make sure your cell phones are on silent or vibrate, and when it is time for questions please raise your hand and one of our staff members will give you a microphone so we can make sure that everybody hears the question; and please state your name and organization when you ask your question. And now, I'll hand it over to Ambassador Haslach. Thank you.

AMBASSAOR HASLACH: Thank you. It's great to be here, a lot of interest in APEC, and that is what I'm here to talk about. But I thought it might help if I just set the stage for a couple minutes. I want to reserve plenty of time so you can all ask questions, but I think it - it would help, maybe, if I give just a little bit of a briefing of what we hope to achieve this year at the leaders meeting, upcoming meeting in Lima, Peru.

I think all of us would agree that this is a moment of great economic anxiety on a global scale. The financial crisis, which reached a new level of severity in recent weeks, requires a global, coordinated response. With tightening liquidity in the credit markets, there's growing concern that slumping stock markets are depressing consumer confidence and are likely to lead to a slowdown in economic activity and a reduction in employment in many countries in the coming months ahead. I think in such circumstances, there is a tendency to react by putting breaks on overseas investment, by having second thoughts about economic openness, by talking about putting up barriers in hopes of protecting jobs.

We must firmly reject such an approach. A robust trade and investment agenda will positively contribute to our ability to address this truly unprecedented global crisis. So we need to work together to make the case for free trade and increased investment flows, to ensure that there is a firm foundation for tomorrow's recovery, because the recovery will come.

Part of our effort to address the global financial crisis is the President's hosting of a summit on financial markets and the world economy here in Washington on November 15. The U.S. was able to propose and host this meeting in large part because of the long-scheduled APEC leaders meeting in Peru the following week, with a number of Asian G-20 leaders already planning to come to the Western Hemisphere. The APEC Leaders Summit itself offers an opportunity to make this case and to reaffirm our commitment to free and open trade and investment.

The United States has articulated a vision of regional economic integration centered on APEC that includes a prospect of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. We view APEC as a premier venue for our country's economic engagement with the Asia-Pacific. Its 21 member economies together account for 60 percent of U.S. exports, 60 percent of global GDP, 50 percent of world trade, and nearly 3 billion consumers.

APEC offers a practical venue to forge greater cooperation on trade and economic issues in the region. The collegial and consensus-based nature of APEC encourages all members to look for tangible approaches to strengthen economic integration in this part of the world.

APEC plays an important role in fostering an overall environment where prosperity is both possible and sustainable. And at a time of economic anxiety, APEC's work proves that globalization is not something to be feared, but rather as an opportunity to be seized. APEC has given and will continue to give strong and consistent support for the Doha negotiations. Successfully concluding the Doha round remains the highest priority for APEC economies

In addition to providing support for the multilateral trade agenda and working to strengthen regional economic integration, APEC has also taken steps to address practical issues that impact on the Asia-Pacific. For example, APEC reduced regional trade transaction costs by five percent between 2001 and 2006, making it easier for American businesses, including small businesses, to export throughout the region. And we've agreed to reduce transaction costs by an additional 5 percent by 2010.

APEC has also concluded this year an investment facilitation action plan, designed to help economies improve their investment climates, and has undertaken an agenda to promote regulatory reform among APEC economies.

APEC is working to address volatile food prices in the region, including ways to greatly encourage food trade and widespread use of new technologies, including biotechnology.

And APEC is doing all of these things and more. We're doing this with participation of governments and with the private sector. Over the next few years, we hope to build on Peru's excellent leadership this year and continue to make progress on regional economic integration, including movement toward a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

I think you're all aware Singapore will host APEC in 2009, Japan in 2010, and the United States in 2011. This is a terrific opportunity for us to build momentum on regional economic integration, demonstrate leadership, and reinforce our economic and political commitment to the Asia-Pacific region

Now, I'd be happy to take questions.

MODERATOR: If I can just remind everyone to raise their hand and wait for the microphone. We'll start over on the far left. Maybe you guys can help out, if you can pass the microphone over to the gentleman in the suit.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Ambassador. My name is Vincent Chang with the United Daily News, Taiwan. As you know, Taiwan's former Vice President will be attending the leaders meeting next week on behalf of the - of its President, Ma Ying-jeou. How does the United States see such a development across the strait, and will President Bush schedule any meeting with the Presidential representative from Taiwan?

AMBASSDOR HASLACH: I don't have access to the President's schedule at this time, but I know that they - he will be there for the leaders meeting, so there should be plenty of opportunity to have discussions with all of the representatives.

I think on your - the first part of your question, I think we view APEC as an excellent organization for economies to come together, of confidence-building measures, ways that we can cooperate in - I think I mentioned in a collegial, consensus approach. APEC is not a negotiating forum. It's actually a grouping of economies, and this provides an excellent opportunity to discuss economic and trade issues of mutual interest among our economies.

MODERATOR: Sorry, I think we had a question here, and then we will move up to the third row after that.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Ambassador. My name is Andrey Sorjanski* (ph). I'm with the ITAR-TASS news agency of Russia. Do you expect any bilats between Russian and U.S. delegation at the ministerial and the summit itself? And if so, what specifically would you be willing to discuss with them besides, you know, APEC agenda? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Again, I don't have the Secretary's actual schedule or the President's. We're still working on the bilats. But even short of the bilats, the leaders have, and the ministers and ministers of trade, as well, have plenty of opportunities to meet both in the formal and informal sessions, as well as the various events that are scheduled around it. But I don't have any access to final versions of anybody's schedule at this point.

I think you can all appreciate the fact that this has been sort of an exciting time with a lot of things going on, especially with the financial summit coming up this week. So things have not been finalized.
MODERATOR: We're going to the third row, and then we'll move to the fifth row on the end after that.
QUESTION: Mike Lavallee with TBS. Just wondering, as you mentioned, this - the financial summit happening at the end of this week in Washington has facilitated - was facilitated by APEC coming next week. How do you see those two meetings working together? I mean, do you - is this going to be a building block for APEC? Are they going to be able to continue what they started here in Washington down in Lima?
And then secondly, completely unrelated question, but what do you see in terms of North Korea at APEC? The five leaders, except for North Korea, will be there. Do you see any type of meeting happening on North Korea, any type of coordination effort going on North Korea while they're down in Lima?
AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Well, this is largely an economic organization, so I don't see that there are any planned discussions about North Korea at the meeting. That's not to say that subjects like that might not come up in bilateral meetings, but again, I don't - I don't know anything certain on that front.
With regard to the Financial Markets and World Economy upcoming summit, maybe it would help to backtrack slightly. There have been two important meetings in the last week or so. One was the APEC finance ministers meeting in Trujillo, Peru, at the beginning of the month, and then there was the G-20 finance ministers meeting this past weekend in Brazil. And I think we look at the upcoming APEC meeting to reinforce the commitments that were made in those two meetings, as well as the upcoming meeting this weekend. It's a little bit hard to predict what the outcome is going to be, but I would expect that the APEC leaders would come out with a strong endorsement of the process of trying to find a solution to the financial turmoil.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Ambassador. My name is Shogo Kawakita with Kyodo News, Japanese news wire service. You said it's a bit hard to predict the outcome of the APEC meeting, but could you tell us a little bit specifically about the possible outcome of the APEC meeting? I mean, are you working with any action plan, document, or some sort of - that kind of a plan to tackle the financial crisis?
And the second question, if I may, is could you tell us a little bit briefly on the political front of the discussion, other than North Korea? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Again, I'm not going to comment on North Korea. That's not an area of the world that I work in. I work on APEC and trade and economic issues.

At the finance ministers meeting in Trujillo - in Lima -- sorry, in Peru that just took place, I can just say that the finance ministers pledged to work collaboratively and to coordinate actions, calling for strengthened financial regulation and oversight, and a review of minimal capital requirements. And they committed to resisting protectionist measures in the financial sector.

I would expect that that would be something that we would be trying to reinforce at the leaders meeting. It's also important to - I mentioned some of the other things that APEC is involved in, such as food security, energy security. These are the other types of issues, sort of the bread and butter, if you don't mind me using that term, that we also focus on in APEC.

I was also just in Japan for the U.S.-Japan Investment Working Group, where I met with my Japanese counterparts, and we discussed ways that we could encourage further investment, both foreign investment into Japan as well as into the United States, so having just been in your beautiful country.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: Microphone, please.

QUESTION: Could you a little bit elaborate what you said about the food security, because it's a matter of concern for us and for some others in Asia? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Yes, we are going to be holding a couple of meetings specifically to discuss the whole food security issue, the volatility with regard to prices. We're also going to be looking at how we can encourage research and development, how we can encourage economies to resist putting up protectionist barriers in the areas of trade. So that will be - those are meetings that are still yet to occur, but that's certainly our goal, the United States' goal.

I can also reinforce, of course, we are committed to seeing the Doha round concluded, and that, of course, also would have an impact on world agricultural trade - a positive impact.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) and then we'll go to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Haslach. My name's Huang Shan from Beijing-based Caijing magazine, a finance businesses review. As we know, the United States propose APEC-wide free trade zone a few years ago, and right now, I wonder about the progress on that respect. And do you think it will be achievable in the near future in terms of current, you know, crisis surrounding the - you know, casting doubt on the free trade prospect? So I wonder your opinion about APEC-wide free trade zones.

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Well, we're not going to take sole responsibility for this. Let me just remind you that the United States is one of the economies that participates in APEC, and it was all of the economies and the leaders that agreed to move forward on what's called a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. We're working hard, actually, at my level to fulfill the APEC leaders direction, to examine the options and the prospects for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific by taking a range of practical steps, including analyzing convergences and divergences among APEC free trade agreements and regional free trade agreements that already exist and identifying issues that will need to be addressed in order for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific to be launched. So we have work to do in this area, but we certainly haven't abandoned the overall goal.

MODERATOR: And we're moving to the right.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Amy Tsui. I'm with BNA's International Trade Reporter. I wanted to ask whether there would be a representative from President-elect Obama at the APEC meeting, and if you've had communication with the incoming administration on these issues?

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: I haven't directly, but there have been folks that have been talking to the transition team. And with regard to somebody from President-elect Obama's advisors, I haven't heard of anyone planning to attend at this point. But I don't also have access to that information, so …

MODERATOR: And we'll move to the opposite side of the room.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you, Ambassador. I'm Shanshan Wang from China Radio International, and I've got two questions. The first one is: Are there any specific proposals the United States would put forward for deliberation at the APEC meeting? And the second is: China has announced a $586 billion package to boost its domestic growth and also fight against the global financial crisis. Would that have an impact on the G-20 summit and the APEC meeting? Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Oh, I'm certain it will have an impact and we look forward to the details of that stimulus package. It certainly had an impact on the markets, so we think - we look forward to getting more information on that.

With regard to what we are seeking with regard to deliverables this year, well, we have a long list. I guess on the top of the list would be continued support by the APEC economies to bring the Doha round to a successful conclusion. That would be our primary goal.

I think it's also the work that I was mentioning before, sort of the very detailed work for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. I think we're also looking to get leaders' endorsement for an investment facilitation action plan that I mentioned in my remarks. We want - we hope to make some progress on environmental goods and services. This came out of last year's APEC summit in Sydney. We would hope to get an endorsement of a work program on environmental goods and services that includes development of an environmental goods database.

We, of course, continue to want to see progress in the area of intellectual property rights. We're very interested in getting an endorsement of a digital prosperity checklist. I mentioned the work that we've been doing on food safety, but this includes an endorsement of an APEC partnership and training institute, and this is a public-private initiative. We also have work moving forward in the area of food security and food safety and product safety in these areas.

We also want to commend work that's recently been done. And I'd like to commend Taiwan on - China on this one, the - a workshop that they held on disaster preparedness after the - after an earthquake in China. This was a very, very excellent workshop that we had, and I think an example of sort of the tangible sorts of work that APEC can do.

We're very interested in carrying forward on what's called structural reform, or behind-the-borders types of impediments. Australia hosted the first structural reform ministerial in August, and the topic there was regulatory reform. And we're very interested in seeing more work done in the regulatory reform area, as well as work in areas like corporate governance. I think, again, with this financial crisis, corporate governance would be a good area for APEC to get involved in.

We have work in education. And I don't know if anyone is here from the Peruvian press, but one area that Peru's been very interested in stressing this year is an area of corporate social responsibility. And so we're very much supporting them, including a private sector-based Web site on best practices and companies that are doing it right in the Asia-Pacific region with regard to the corporate social responsibility.

A lot of work being done in small and medium enterprises. They make up the bulk of the businesses that are in our economies, and so we've done some work on an avian influenza preparedness workshop, some work on small and medium - financing for small and medium enterprises. So these are - that's sort of a quick outline of some of the things we hope to deliver at the next meeting.

MODERATOR: We'll go to the gentleman third from the left, and then we'll come over here to the woman in the fourth row.

QUESTION: Hello. Nishizaki from Asahi Shimbun. You mentioned the importance of free market and free trade, especially during the times of economic crisis like this. Are there any protectionist movement that the U.S. might consider rather disturbing during this time?

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: Well, remember this is a group of economies that are advocating regional economic integration, so I haven't heard of any specific plans out there on the protectionist front, and we certainly would - would not be supportive of that.

QUESTION: Madame Ambassador, Zhu Hua from China Central Television America, and my question is, we know that the theme of this year's summit is a new commitment to the Asia-Pacific development, so how would you paraphrase the theme? What commitment do you think that developed country and developing countries should make respectively in tackling the financial crisis?

AMBASSADOR HASLACH: I think the most important sort of theme would be that trade and investment have been the key drivers of economic growth and development in our region, and we need to stay on track with this, recognizing that there are a lot of challenges out there, but we think that this is still the best path toward prosperity for both the developed and the developing economies within APEC.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Xiong Min, from 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese newspaper. What are the priorities on the proposal from the U.S. Government to the G-20 summit, and what do you expect as a commitment will be made from the summit? Thank you.

AMBASSDOR HASLACH: Well, I'm going to have to refer to my notes on that one, if you'll allow me. I'd be happy to share with you what the goals are. The President's goals for this first meeting would be first to review actions thus far to address the present crisis. The second would be to come to a common understanding of the root causes of the crisis. Third, agree on common principles for reform to guide future work and avoid future crises. Fourth, ensure principles are implemented by defining an action plan. Fifth, task follow-up work for future meetings, including coordination with other bodies. And finally, I believe the President will seek the resolve of all nations not to turn inward and solidify donor commitment to follow through on the development assistance side.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Any more questions? All right. Well, thank you very much for attending, and thank you, Ambassador.

AMBASSDOR HASLACH: Thank you.

ENDS

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