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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks by Ministers Responsible for Trade at Press Availability

May 20, 2011


Remarks by Ministers Responsible for Trade at Press Availability

May 20, 2011

Big Sky, Montana


AMBASSADOR KIRK: Thank you, Carol. Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining us.

This has been a wonderfully-inspiring week in Big Sky, Montana. As United States Trade Representative, I was pleased and honored to be able to host my fellow ministers and introduce many of them, some for the first time, to the great American West. Our scenery has been more than a backdrop. These majestic mountains have called APEC ministers to broaden our vistas and plan on a much grander scale.

The United States wants to do big things with our partners in Asia-Pacific. Strong engagement within the region is a major component of our U.S. trade agenda. Markets of the Asia‑Pacific are some of the largest and most dynamic in the world and it's important to the United States that we increase our economic integration within the region. And APEC, along with our pending trade agreement with Korea, and the work we are doing to produce Transpacific partnerships, is a fundamental pillar of our U.S. trade policy going forward.

The United States has seen our host year as a potential watershed year, not only for us as an economy but for APEC as a whole. We view this as a critical juncture to keep APEC's trade and investment agenda on the cutting edge for the next 20 years. Our work this week in Big Sky has produced meaningful progress toward our shared goal of the single regional economy.

Together we have taken significant steps toward concrete deliverables for our Leaders Meeting in Honolulu later this year. We have identified specific next-generation issues that we will address together that will make the trade rules of the region reflect the realities of today's global trade environment. We have seen that our trade objectives and our work to promote green growth clearly intersect, and we've advanced a robust discussion on how best to liberalize trade in environmental goods and services. This is one sector in which our economies excel particularly, and one vital to the future health of the world's economy and our planet.

We've identified clear ways to improve regulatory equality and transparency. This serves our shared goal of making it cheaper, easier, and faster for companies to trade across the region, supporting economic growth and employment in all 21 member economies, and I'm proud that this week we will have our first-ever Joint Ministerial on Trade and Small- and Medium-Size Enterprises. That work will benefit businesses from right here in Montana to the farthest reaches of our region.

In Montana, APEC Ministers have demonstrated a willingness to cooperate to achieve concrete outcomes on issues of importance to all of our peoples. Our ministers' discussion of Doha was particularly significant. It was a more honest discussion of where the round stands today, and I especially praise our Director General Pascal Lamy for his very frank and earnest contribution with respect to where we go from here.

More importantly, all ministers agreed that we cannot and will not give up. But we also cannot simply keep doing that we have been doing in the Doha talks if we mean to move forward. We instead committed ourselves to a more sober assessment of the next steps. Today's statement by the APEC economies will certainly inform the future work of our meetings, including the Australian Ministerial on the Margins of the OECD next week.

Strong and smart engagement among the APEC members towards the flexible, forward-leaning atmosphere of this forum has produced real and meaningful results. I look forward to the work we will do together as we prepare for Honolulu, and I look forward to seeing all that we've begun in Big Sky come to life on a much grander scale in the decades to come.

I want to thank especially Senator Baucus and members of the local Host Committee for their extraordinary hospitality. We want to thank the business members that have traveled to be with us today, and we especially are grateful for the participation of representatives from ABANC, ASEAN, and EPCC.

With that, I'd like to recognize our partner and our APEC Secretary, Ambassador Muhamad Noor, to say just a few words about our work this week.

AMBASSADOR NOOR: Thank you very much, Ambassador Kirk. Thank you for the opportunity to provide insight into the workings of our work this week here in Big Sky.

Firstly, I would like to thank the Montana APEC 2011 Host Committee, the APEC USA 2011 Planning Team, and all the local volunteers who have been so helpful to all of us. We are grateful for the hospitality and graciousness, without which we would not have seen the success that we have achieved this week.

Let me give you a brief update into what has happened and occurred here over the past couple of weeks. Since May 7th, a series of meetings have been held, and concluded on Wednesday with the Senior Officers Meetings and which was then followed up by the Ministers Meetings yesterday and today. The Senior Officers Meetings helped to prepare the ministers for their discussions.

At the working level, APEC policy fora and committees organized their work around APEC's 2011 priorities, which are: strengthening regional economic integration, promoting green growth, and advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence.

With respect to the first area, the meetings worked to identify the next-generation trade issues. We agreed to focus on facilitating global supply chains, enhancing SME participation, and developing innovation policy. This work will carry on throughout the rest of the year with the intention of delivering results to the leaders in November.

The ministers also held discussions on reducing barriers to create investment and environmental services, and a work plan will be worked on in the coming months.

Thirdly, there was a full discussion on regulatory cooperation and convergence. A proposal was put forward for economies to take complete actions in these three areas; i.e., internal coordination of regulatory work, regulatory impact assessments, and create public consultation mechanisms.

In addition to the discussion on the three 2011 priorities, there was a high-level dialogue on food security. In relation to that, during the course of this week, a Memorandum of Understanding between APEC and the World Bank on capacity-building for food safety was concluded and signed.

During the course of this week, also, Japan shared with the membership of APEC the challenges that they face in trying to recover from the tsunami and earthquake which took place immediately after the first series of Senior Officers Meetings which took place in Washington, D.C., in February-March this year. The information-sharing by Japan was deeply appreciated by the members.

What we have done here in Big Sky is very much in line with the overall APEC mission to achieve free and open trade and investment in the region, what we commonly refer to as the BOGO goals. From the Secretariat's perspective, we at least are on track to achieve the results that we set out to achieve when we met in Washington earlier this year.

Our time here in Big Sky, Montana, has contributed to the success of APEC and we look forward to the continued progress as we make our way towards the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Honolulu in November. Internally, we continue to look at how APEC reforms, including strengthening the Secretariat, will progress over the coming months.

Going forward, the Secretariat will support intercessional work to implement some of the decisions that have been made by the ministers yesterday and today. In preparations for the meetings in San Francisco and Hawaii later this year, we will continue to support the development of the agenda, prepare documentation, and conduct research to support officials in their discussions.

Thank you, Ambassador Kirk, for the opportunity to offer my views.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll now open the floor for questions. Please remember to identify your outlet, and remember that questions may be addressed to any minister. Simply please note the minister to whom you're directing the question. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Simon Zarangi from Indonesia. I address my question to Mr. Ron Kirk. What USA can offer or what can USA can do to make Doha Round move forward? This is the first question.

And the second question is why there is a Transpacific partnership within APEC? Why shouldn't we focus more on APEC rather than creating another –

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Forgive me. Could you hold the microphone a little closer to your mouth?

QUESTION: Okay, okay. My first question is –

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Much better.

QUESTION: It is better. My first question is what USA can offer to make Doha Round move forward rather than just stand still like nowadays?

And then my second question is why there is a Transpacific partnership within APEC? Why not focusing on APEC as a group rather than creating another group within APEC? Okay.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: With respect to your first question, I think one of the real benefits of this APEC grouping is that it is a wonderful thought laboratory for advancing trade liberalization within the Asia-Pacific, and it oftentimes is complementary and facilitates work both in Geneva in the multilateral fora and in many cases in many of our other regional configurations.

We believe the greatest contribution that we can make for many of us as members of the WTO is to help create a framework for more honest assessment of the challenges of where we are with respect to Doha in coming up with a new platform to help us move forward. We began that discussion today, as I mentioned in my remarks. For many of us that will continue at a mini-ministerial hosted by the Australian Embassy when we are at the OECD next week.

With respect to the ambitions of a number of our members for the Transpacific partnership, as you know, one of the goals of the APEC economies has always been that of a free trade agreement of the APEC Region. We still believe that is a worthy goal, but there were a number of economies that are especially committed to advancing that sooner rather than later. And we operate on consensus and a voluntary nature within APEC, but a number of us, nine economies in particular, have undertaken to work towards what we hope will be the crafting of one of the most advanced trade agreements and building a new model for the 21st century. And for those of you that were with us in Yokohama, we would like to believe it is not too much to hope that the work that we are doing towards the Transpacific partnership can in fact ultimately lead to or become the vehicle for the creation of a free trade agreement of all 21 member APEC economies.

QUESTION: My name is Masakuni Oshirabe with Japanese newspaper Nikkei. My first question is to...

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Again, forgive me. I don't mean to interrupt. But for all of you, for us to hear, you really – if you could hold the microphone and speak loudly?

QUESTION: Okay. My name is Masakuni Oshirabe with Japanese newspaper Nikkei. My first question is to Ambassador Kirk. How will you cooperate with ASEAN members about not just the Japanese earthquake but also natural disasters in the Asian Pacific Region?

My second question is to Japanese delegation. So what is your message about the earthquake and ongoing nuclear power plant action? What is your key message to the other countries? Thank you.

MODERATOR: His first question is: How will the United States cooperate with ASEAN members to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters in Japan and across the ASEAN Region?

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Well, first of all, I think one of the hallmarks of our work within APEC is a very strong realization of how much we are all linked together by the Asia-Pacific, not only commercially, but for many of us these are some of the strongest strategic and familial relationships. And one thing we are proud of was the very prompt response to the extraordinary natural disasters that we have seen, not just in Japan but earlier in the year in the earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand, the floods in Australia, and the earthquake that struck Chile earlier in the year. And in every case not just the United States but I think every member economy in APEC was very quick to respond with humanitarian assistance as well as technical assistance as needed in each of those economies.

We did in fact have a presentation this afternoon from Japan, in particular, on disaster preparedness and response, and part of our effort is to see what we can learn from these recent natural disasters and be better prepared in the future. And that work will continue.

MODERATOR: Nikkei's second question was directed to the Japanese Minister regarding the Japanese message regarding the earthquake at this time.

JAPANESE MINISTER: (Response in Japanese.)

QUESTION: I'm from Xinhua News Agency, Peoples Republic of China. I have two questions for Mr. Yujin Huang (ph). Please allow me to speak in Chinese. (Asks question in Chinese.)

MR. HUANG: Then should I speaking in Chinese or English? Okay. Xinhua News Agency is our national news agency, the most important one. And as a matter of fact, we could discuss these two issues in China. But in front of the media, let me say very briefly about your two questions.

The first one, about the Chinese role in the Doha Round, I can assure you that China always plays constructive role and positive role in the Doha Round. China joined the WTO in 2001. That's to say, the Chinese liberalization of the market, trade, services, starting from 2001. For the majority of the WTO members, their liberalization program conducted – accomplished in 2000 – in the Uruguay Round in 1994. Our accusation for the WTO negotiations, we cut our tariff by 70 percent. According to the current program of the Doha negotiation on the table, China will cut another 30 percent of our tariff.

We liberalized our services sectors 107, 107 service sectors and subsectors. That far supercedes the world average, even supercedes the average of the developed economies. Seventy percent of those sectors will allow the foreign enterprises, foreign investors to establish wholly-owned enterprises in China. Another 30, they could be holding the majority of the joint ventures.

In the Doha Round, as a developing member and newly accessioned member, we worked very closely with the other WTO members to make efforts to bring the round to an early conclusion. Now the Doha round is at a very critical moment. Such a situation is due to various reasons – because of the domestic politics of some economies; because of the financial crisis, the impact of the financial crisis, on the world economy, and some aspects of the globalization; and some protectionism in certain economies. Of course, there are some shortcomings of the existing multilateral trade system.

For the next step, as Mr. Kirk mentioned, we will work very closely with all the membership to work on the next steps. But the next steps should be consistent with the Doha mandate, that is, the development that I mentioned, and the priority should be given to the developing companies, especially the listed developing countries. And any actions and steps should be conducive to the early, comprehensive conclusion of the whole round, of the whole package.

The second question is about green growth. I suppose you know quite well that awareness, consciousness, of the Chinese government under the people, the public, is increasing very fast about the green growth. And the actions, the green energy, is developing very fast. The technology, the products, production has increased very fast.

And when we talk about green growth, we must bear in mind three dimensions. One is trade. We will increase trade growth on environmental goods and services. The second dimension is about environmental protection. Third dimension is about development, development of the developing countries. Such an issue is very close to climate change negotiation, the principle of common, differentiated responsibility. The difference about this should be bear in mind when we are talking about the green growth. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Toshi Ogata with the Asahi Shimbun Japanese newspaper. I have one question for Mr. Kirk, another question for Japanese vice ministers. Mr. Kirk, regarding the ripple effect from the recent tragedy in Japan, that was a disruption of supply chain, and it had some impact on many economies, including United States. What kind of discussion did you have on the issue? And going forth at APEC, what are you going to do about this?

And question for Japanese delegation. One of the major goals for Japanese delegation for this conference is to call for avoiding unscientific import restriction on Japanese agricultural products and also other products. And how specifically are you persuade or did you address the issue? How did you persuade the counterparts? And what was their reaction to those? And did you feel you achieved some of the goal you originally thought in that area? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: With respect to your question relative to lessons learned, I guess, from the natural disaster and disruption to the supply chain, as tragic as it was, it did serve as a fairly poignant reminder of how closely our economies are linked. As you know, the issues surrounding strengthening of our supply chain have been at the core of much of our work in APEC over the last several years and as it related to two of our principal objectives at this particular ministerial, looking at ways we can strengthen regional economic integration, and then the second topic of what we can do to promote regulatory convergence and cooperation.

One of the more interesting sessions we had was in our roundtable discussions with the business community. But in particular, we looked at and discussed a number of elements relative to disruption of the supply chain, not all of which are related to natural disasters. So one of the positives was a recommitment to doing everything we can to promote the free and efficient – not the free, but at least the efficient movement of goods and services within the region, and particularly for the first time beginning to look at how that impacts small businesses. But that will continue to be at the core of our work within APEC.

JAPANESE MINISTER: (Response in Japanese.)

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Doug Palmer. I work for Reuters News Agency. And I guess my question is for both Ambassador Kirk and for the –

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Doug, would you stand up and speak up, please?

QUESTION: Sure. Sure.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Thank you.

QUESTION: Doug Palmer with Reuters, and I have a question for both Ambassador Kirk and for the Chinese official. And I apologize. I don't know your name. So if you could identify yourself and your position, that would be helpful as well.

Director General Lamy talked about this unbridgeable gap in the Doha Round in regards to the manufactured goods sector. And you note in your statement today that many gaps seem to be unbridgeable at this time. So I guess my question is, are we still talking about a Doha Round that would have market access agreements in agriculture, manufacturing, and services? Or are we talking about a much reduced Doha Round that focuses on issues like trade facilitation and maybe some sectoral initiatives like environmental goods and services?

And I guess my question for the Chinese official is, what we hear in the United States is that in 2001, when China acceded to the WTO, that that was a time when China saw it was in its own interests to make reforms. And at this particular time, for whatever reason, China doesn't see it in its interests to make any reforms, and so that's one of the reasons that these gaps are so unbridgeable.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Doug, with respect to your first question, I will reiterate what's in the statement. However we decide to go forward, those decisions are going to have to be made in consultation with the other members of the WTO in the next several weeks and days to come. It could encompass any of the elements that you mentioned, whether it's trade facilitation or, some of us believe still, a fairly ambitious market access opening agreement that would still address not only NAMA but also agriculture and services as well.

We have made no decisions collectively as a body on what that would entail. I would say I think there is unanimity among this body that whatever we do, we have to adhere to the developmental premise underlying the Doha Round and have a package that addresses the needs of the least developed economy.

But I want to make it plain: I think the most important thing that came out of this conference was at least a very honest assessment of where we are, and a recognition that we can't continue to approach the round in the manner that we have, that it's going to require a fresh approach.

MR. HUANG: First of all, as requested, let me identify myself. My name Yujin Huang, Assistant Minister of Ministry of Commerce, China. You are talking about the next steps – trade facilitation, market access, or some other issues. Nobody has the certain idea yet for the moment. This is at the brainstorming stage. The Director General has some ideas. Some members have some ideas. We will discuss this issue in OECD and in Geneva. If you have any ideas, any suggestions, don't hesitate to let us know.

[Laughter.]

MR. HUANG: For your second question, I should say China is the number two world economy now, and is the major trading nation, and we need Doha. The opening up is our basic national policy; we will never change that. Nowadays, compared with 10 years ago when China joined the WTO, China's economy is more dependent and more associated with the world economy. So we cannot go without the world economy.

So we need the Doha. The Doha serves the best interests. Early conclusion of the Doha Round serves the best interests and the long-term interests of China. So that's why, as I mentioned earlier, we are going to work very closely with other members to bring the round to an early and comprehensive conclusion. Thank you.

MODERATOR: I believe we have one more question on the second row.

QUESTION: Yes. Jordi Zamora. I'm from Agence France-Presse news agency. It's a question to Ambassador Kirk regarding the TPP, the statement yesterday issued on the negotiations. Two things in the statement. One is about the sensitive issues that – your knowledge of the nine participants that you have to work more on them. I would like for you if you could develop further on that. What are those so sensitive issues?

And the second one is your knowledge that there's an interest of other APEC members on the TPP negotiations. I wonder if you could give us how many APEC members are interested in joining somehow, and if any of them would be able to join the negotiations right now in order to achieve something in November. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: With respect to your first question, I will reiterate I think we had a very good meeting of the TPP ministers yesterday. We are pleased with the work that we have done thus far both in terms of process and substance. We are preparing for our next round, which will occur next month in Vietnam, and then the round in the United States in the fall.

We're honest in recognizing we are now entering some of the more challenging phases of our negotiations as we move beyond our aspirational statement of principles to the difficult work of how we address some of our more sensitive issues, but that's work that we're going to keep within the body. But we are all committed to moving forward in a thoughtful way, with everything being on the table, and addressing in the highest standard, most far-reaching manner we can trade liberalization among the nine economies that have agreed to move forward.

With respect to other economies, I'm loath to speak for any others. I mean, it is obvious when we were in Japan their Prime Minister spoke very candidly about his belief that Japan's future was going to be as was its past, in terms of their greatest economic expansion, and he expressed a very strong desire that Japan would consider joining TPP. It is our belief that in terms of timing, that is a decision left to the people of Japan, particularly as their focus right now is as it should be, on recovery and rebuilding.

I don't think it's a secret that one of the more positive stories to come out of the APEC leaders meeting in Yokohama was the enthusiasm with which our work in TPP was embraced by a number of economies. But I think it's more appropriate for those other economies that are interested in joining to say so rather than for us to make that expression for them. We have agreed generally that we will make decisions on adding new partners as a group. And as those economies make the political decisions that they are ready to engage us, then we'll consider them at an appropriate time.

MODERATOR: And I believe that was our last question. We'll return to Ambassador Kirk, who will recognize the chair of next year's meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade, and then close the press conference.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Again, we want to thank all of you for joining us for what has been a very successful and productive APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade. We very much look forward to welcoming all of you to Honolulu for our leaders meeting. We are also excited about convening next year in Russia, and our trade ministerial meeting will be chaired by our very capable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Economy, Elvira Nabioullina, who will share her thoughts on our meeting in Russia next year.

MINISTER NABIOULLINA: Thank you. First of all, I would like to thank you, Ambassador Kirk, the whole American presence, honor for warm hospitality and excellent organization of the event. While joining APEC, we declared our commitment to the goals. Specifically, we are committed to the principles of open and free trade and investment regime in APEC. This has always been and still is the most important element of our activity at the forum. Based on these objectives, we will also work together with our partners to address a number of challenges, such as structural reforms, improvement of economic regulations, security and transparency, encouraging SMEs, and implementation of public/private partnerships.

We will do our utmost to ensure an efficient and productive APEC summit in Vladivostok in 2012. We have started the preparation. Now we are discussing and formulating our possible priorities for agenda as the chair of APEC in 2012. We will observe with the principle of succession of the past chairs' priorities, primarily the U.S., Japan, and Singapore's. We are going to focus on traditional issues of APEC agenda such a liberalization of trade and investment and regional economic integration. Also, we'll continue to discuss the issues of transportation and supply chains and food security. We plan to concentrate the member economies' focus on new challenges and issues relating to economic modernization, investment, and innovation technology adoption.

We hope our partners will support our efforts, and we will make a solid contribution to the forum's activities as its chair next year and in the long run. Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR KIRK: Well, that concludes our press conference. Thank you for joining us.

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