Biden highlights APEC economic ties amid trade deal failure

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a welcome reception for leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., November 15, 2023. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – President Joe Biden will highlight strong U.S. ties with AAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum economies, despite a lack of progress on key trade provisions sought by regional countries.

Biden, who held a hugely important summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, is scheduled to address the CEO summit on Thursday and then talk to leaders of the 21-member APEC gathering in San Francisco for the organization’s annual summit.

Biden will also attend an event with the 14-member Indo-Pacific Facility (IPEF), which his administration created to strengthen economic engagement after former President Donald Trump left the long-negotiated regional trade pact in 2017.

U.S. hopes for an IPEF trade deal dashed this week after members couldn’t agree on improving labor and environmental standards or their compliance, according to people briefed on the talks.

In remarks to APEC leaders, Biden will highlight U.S. progress in the fight against climate change, call for collective APEC action and “demonstrate this administration’s commitment to deepening economic engagement with the region,” a senior U.S. official told reporters.

U.S. exports to the region increased 12%, 60% of U.S. exports go to another APEC economy, and APEC members have invested $1.7 trillion in the U.S. economy since 2016, the official said.

He said the leaders of Japan, Vietnam and Singapore would join Biden at the IPEF event and highlight progress in reaching an agreement on supply chains. The official said IPEF countries will “in principle conclude” clean economy and fair economy agreements.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier on Thursday that IPEF countries had reached agreement on several “pillars” of the IPEF initiative, including cooperation on clean energy and anti-corruption measures. Ministers also formally signed the previously agreed third pillar text covering supply chain resilience.

Biden plans to highlight his administration’s efforts to improve workers’ rights in Thursday’s remarks, a U.S. official said. He said Biden “is committed to ensuring high labor standards, incorporating workers’ voices in decision-making and enforcing policies against unfair labor practices.”

Asked how long it might take to complete the IPEF trade pillar, the official said most negotiations take years, but the U.S. administration said it would work on an “accelerated timeline.”

Biden will note that companies based in other APEC economies have invested more than $200 billion in the U.S. since the start of his administration, the official said, and U.S. companies have invested at least $40 billion in other APEC economies in 2023 alone.

APEC members are closely watching developments between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals, fearing that increasingly intense competition could disrupt global trade and security.

On Wednesday in San Francisco, executives from leading US companies had dinner with Xi after his talks with Biden aimed at stabilizing relations.

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China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States, Xi told them, saying there is plenty of room for bilateral cooperation as part of a charm offensive to reassure global business and counter his country’s efforts to attract foreign investment.


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