US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would continue to work to make progress on the Pacific trade pact, even as his vision for a regional agreement to counter China’s influence stumbled in the face of his attempt to strengthen workers’ rights, reports Reuters .
“Our work is not done yet,” Biden told corporate executives in San Francisco, where he was attending a summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“We will continue to work to better facilitate high-standard trade that improves workers’ rights through rigorous enforcement of labor standards,” Biden said.
He was also scheduled to participate Thursday in an event on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a 14-nation group created by his administration.
Hopes for a Framework trade deal were dashed this week. Members could not agree on improving labor and environmental standards or compliance, people briefed on the talks said.
The United States and its Indo-Pacific partners should regroup and “recalibrate” their negotiations on the trade pillar early next year, Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi told Reuters on Thursday.
Asked how long an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework trade agreement could take, an administration official said most negotiations take years, but the White House intends to work on an “accelerated timeline.”
The White House launched the Framework to strengthen economic engagement with Asia after former President Donald Trump left a regional trade pact in 2017. Biden, a Democrat, could again face Republican Trump in next year’s presidential election — a face-to-face meeting that could affect US support for multilateral groups such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or the IMF and trade policy.
US INVESTMENT IN ASIA
Ahead of the ATIS summit, Biden on Thursday touted investments from U.S. companies in the region, including Amazon.com ( AMZN.O ), Delta Air Lines ( DAL.N ), PepsiCo ( PEP.O ), Apple ( AAPL.O ) and Boeing. (BA.N)
He argued that continued US economic growth would support the entire world, an assessment challenged by the sluggish global economy.
The International Monetary Fund last month cut its growth forecasts for China and said overall global growth remained low and uneven despite what it called the “remarkable strength” of the US economy. It projects real global GDP growth of 3.0% in 2023.
Biden said 60 percent of U.S. exports go to ATIS countries, and U.S. businesses are the largest source of foreign direct investment in those economies, investing at least $40 billion in 2023.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier Thursday that the Asia-Pacific Framework countries had agreed on several “pillars” of the trade initiative, covering cooperation on clean energy and anti-corruption measures. Ministers also formally signed a pre-agreed text on a third pillar covering supply chain sustainability.
The US-backed initiative isn’t the only game in town. Trade ministers from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership countries on Wednesday welcomed more members to the bloc if they could meet its standards.
An earlier version of that trade bloc was abandoned by Trump, and under Biden, free trade agreements were put on the back burner amid pressure from labor groups.
ATIS members are closely monitoring developments between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals, concerned that the increasingly intense competition could upset global trade and security, according to Reuters.
Biden, who held a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday aimed at stabilizing strained relations, said a stable US-China relationship is good for the world.
He said he told Xi that he considered the United States a “Pacific nation” that would remain engaged in the region. Biden said the United States is not separating its economy from China, but “de-risking and diversifying.”
“A stable relationship between the two largest economies in the world is not only good for these two economies, but good for the world,” Biden said to applause. “It’s good for everyone,” he added.
Richard Adkerson, chief executive of miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc ( FCX.N ), with operations in Peru and Indonesia, said he was “encouraged” by signs of improving relations between China and the United States, including the meeting of the presidents.
“We have to wait and see if this is a watershed moment or not,” he said.