SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 16 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would continue to work to advance a Pacific trade pact, even as his vision for a regional deal to counter China’s influence stumbled over his attempts to strengthen workers’ rights.
“Our work is not yet done,” Biden told business leaders in San Francisco, where he was attending a summit of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
“We will continue to work to better facilitate high-standard trade that promotes workers’ rights through strong enforcement of labor standards.”
On Thursday, Biden was also scheduled to attend an event for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a 14-nation group that his administration established.
Hopes for an IPEF trade deal were dashed this week. The 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 need to regroup and “recalibrate” their trade pillar negotiations early next year, US Deputy Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi told Reuters on Thursday.
Asked how long an IPEF trade deal could take, an administration official said most negotiations take years, but the White House intended to work on an “accelerated timeline.”
The White House started IPEF to strengthen economic engagement with Asia after former President Donald Trump abandoned a regional trade pact in 2017. Biden, a Democrat, could face Republican Trump again in next year’s presidential election, a face-off that could affect US support for multilateral groups such as APEC or the IMF and trade policy.
After a day of meetings, Biden said the leaders signed a supply chain agreement to identify bottlenecks before problems arise, such as during the height of the COVID pandemic. He also said they made agreements to accelerate transitions to clean energy, as well as an agreement to fight corruption.
He also touted the launch of an “investment accelerator” to bring in private capital for investments in clean energy and technology.
“Government investments are not enough,” he said. “We need to mobilize private investment.”
US INVESTMENT IN ASIA
Ahead of the APEC 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 . (PROHIBIT)
He argued that continued US economic growth would strengthen the entire world, an assessment challenged by the sluggish global economy.
The International Monetary Fund last month cut its growth forecasts for China, saying 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% for 2023.
Biden said 60% of US exports went to APEC countries, and US companies were the largest source of foreign direct investment in those economies, committing at least $40 billion by 2023.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier Thursday that IPEF countries had agreed on several “pillars” of the trade initiative, covering cooperation on clean energy and anti-corruption measures. Ministers also formally signed a previously agreed text on a third pillar covering supply chain resilience.
The US-backed initiative is not 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 can meet its standards.
An earlier version of that trade bloc was abandoned by Trump, and under Biden, free trade deals have been put on the back burner under pressure from labor groups.
APEC members have been closely monitoring developments between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals, worried that increasingly intense competition could disrupt global trade and security.
Biden, who held a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday aimed at stabilizing tense relations, said a stable US-China relationship was good for the world.
He said he told Xi he considered the United States “a Pacific nation” that will remain committed to the region. Biden said the United States was not decoupling its economy from China, but was “de-risking and diversifying.”
“A stable relationship between the world’s two largest economies is not only good for the two economies, but good for the world,” Biden said to applause. “It’s good for everyone.”
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 presidential meeting.
“We’ll have to wait and see if it’s a watershed moment or not,” he said.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, David Brunnstrom, Nandita Bose, Ann Saphir, Katharine Jackson, Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates
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