WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of the United States Trade Representative has unveiled an initiative aimed at improving economic cooperation with 12 countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity involves several key trading partners including Vietnam, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, all of which produce and ship furniture to the U.S. Other countries that are part of the initiative are Australia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Japan, The Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
The partnership evolved out of the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted supply chains, logistics and ultimately the flow of goods from many of these countries.
“The pandemic has also emphasized the importance of strengthening economic competitiveness and cooperation and securing critical supply chains, while stimulating job growth and improving economic opportunities, including for our workers, women, medium- and small-enterprises, and our societies’ most vulnerable groups,” the Office of the USTR said in a statement regarding the initiative.
“This framework is intended to advance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness for our economies,” the USTR continued. “Through this initiative, we aim to contribute to cooperation, stability, prosperity, development, and peace within the region.”
Combined, the USTR said, the U.S. and the countries identified in the Indo-Pacific region represent 40% of world GDP. It also said that U.S. foreign direct investment in the region totaled more than $969 billion in 2020, nearly doubling in the last 10 years alone. And with an estimated 60% of the world’s population, the USTR added that this region will become the largest contributor to global growth over the next 30 years.
The USTR identified four key pillars and supporting statements aimed at strengthening economic cooperation between the 12 countries and the U.S.:
Trade: This area seeks to develop “high-standard, inclusive, free, and fair trade commitments and new and creative approaches in trade and technology policy that advance a broad set of objectives that fuel economic activity and investment, promotes sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and benefits workers and consumers.” Efforts will include, but are not limited to, cooperation in the digital economy.
Supply Chains: This involves a commitment to “improve “transparency, diversity, security, and sustainability in our supply chains to make them more resilient and well-integrated. We seek to coordinate crisis response measures; expand cooperation to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of disruptions to better ensure business continuity; improve logistical efficiency and support; and ensure access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals, and clean energy technology.”
Clean Energy, Decarbonization, and Infrastructure: In line with goals of the Paris Agreement that support the livelihood of people and workers, this will “accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies to decarbonize our economies and build resilience to climate impacts. This involves deepening cooperation on technologies, on mobilizing finance, including concessional finance, and on seeking ways to improve competitiveness and enhance connectivity by supporting the development of sustainable and durable infrastructure and by providing technical assistance.”
Tax and Anti-Corruption: Which suggests a commitment to “promoting fair competition by enacting and enforcing effective and robust anti-money laundering, and anti-bribery regimes in line with existing multilateral obligations, standards, and agreements to curb tax evasion and corruption in the Indo-Pacific region. This also involves sharing expertise and seeking ways to support capacity building necessary to advance accountable and transparent systems.”
The USTR said that officials will continue to identify additional areas of cooperation moving forward, “based on consultations among partners to further our shared interests, with a view to advancing regional economic connectivity and integration. We look forward to jointly creating conducive environments to boost flows of commerce, trade, and investments amongst our economies, and to enhancing standards and access to opportunities for our workers, companies, and peoples in our combined markets.”