3:30 P.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: So we’d like to welcome Dr. Wang back here to the Foreign Press Center. Of course, he was here for a pre-brief on APEC before the summit, and now we get to hear his thoughts and the perspective from what happened at the summit, which is fabulous.
So this is a roundtable, so it’s obviously a little less formal than what we’ve had in the past. And with that, I will turn it over to Dr. Wang, our U.S. Senior Official for APEC.
MR. WANG: Okay. Thanks. Well, you can see, I have all your pictures here, so I know exactly who you are. (Laughter.) So you can – if you say anything, I know exactly who it is who said it.
QUESTION: Could I record?
MR. WANG: Sure, okay. I’m fine. I don’t own this place, so they decide on the rules, yeah. Sure, you can record. Yeah.
Anyway, so I guess the – as I understand it, what they would like me to do is, at the very beginning, simply talk a little bit about what happened in APEC. Again, this is almost now two weeks ago, ending October 8th. And then what I’d like to actually do is, beyond that, is just very quickly move on to how we see 2014, especially given our discussions in China, in Beijing, which – and to say that we are very much looking forward to the APEC host there in 2014. And very good partners over there. Tan Jian is the – is my counterpart, in MOFA. But of course, MOFCOM is very much involved as well. And so I’d like to maybe just chat very quickly as well about that, and then open up to questions and try to see if I can answer some of your questions.
In terms of 2013 APEC, as you know, this is – when I came – when I spoke to you, some of you at least, last time when I came here – yeah – as I – as you know, I was only fairly new on the job, and had only started working, actually, August 19th. So I was really, like, about a month into the job, and I’d been traveling for the last five weeks a lot. And so I guess I – it was my first experience there. And I was actually very, very, quite happy with the results and the achievements that we had in APEC.
Certainly, if you look at the list of things that happened there, it’s a very long list now, including essentially, in terms of – let’s say if you divide it into several things, but then if you divided, first of all, into trade and investment, liberalization, and facilitation of what we call TILF. And nothing dramatic like the one we had – or dramatic like ITA, or the Information Technology Agreement, or the agreement on environmental goods last year, but a lot of work, for example, on our agreement to try to create a fund to improve the connectivity. As you know, we had a lot of follow-through work. In other words, our efforts to try to increase or improve connectivity, supply chain efficiency, by about 10 percent by 2015. So we – several economies, including of course, U.S. but Taiwan, New Zealand, et cetera, committed to a large fund to try to work to actually go to each economy to try to improve supply chain connectivity.
There were also not just our initiative – in fact, Australian initiative to decide to commit about $3 million to improve infrastructure, physical infrastructure, by creating a public-private partnership in a pilot center where they would bring in private sector and others to actually guide a lot of the economies in terms of attracting private investors to invest in infrastructure development. That’s very big because China, Xi Jinping himself, proposed what they called an APEC infrastructure investment bank. And that will all come together because the idea is World Bank had issued a study, as I understand it. I hadn’t seen the study myself, but that the region itself would require some $8 trillion worth of investment to build up its infrastructure. And of course, that is directly associated with connectivity, improving their flow of goods, people, and whatnot, airports, ports, and so on around the region, the Asia Pacific region.
So that was a very major thing that will carry over into 2014 and many years afterwards. If you look at the actual leaders statement and the ministers statement, you’ll see that there are a lot of annexes that actually deal with supply chain connectivity, frame connectivity, framework for the region.
So it doesn’t sound maybe all that sexy in some ways, but I think the point about APEC is that it’s trying to improve the trade flows, whether by lowering tariffs like on environmental goods or IT goods or whatever else, to try to – by doing that, to improve the trade flows and investment flows, which will then create this greater economic interdependency and cooperation. And that eventually will, of course, hopefully, improve the sense of community, to build a community in the region. So I think this is a very important commitment on the part of different economies.
On the achievement that we had last year on the environmental goods list, this year we’re all agreed to move forward on capacity-building to try to make sure that we reach the goal of the 5 percent reduction – I’m sorry, the reduction to 5 percent tariffs or lower, and of course to deal with some of the non-tariff barriers by having a private-public sector involvement in this.
And then – the list is actually quite long, so I’m not going to go through all of them. But one of the things – one of the characteristics of APEC that it’s both a positive and negative in some ways is that it is so broad. It covers so many things, from food security, healthcare systems, women, SMEs, and so on – education. I would highlight, for example, that there was an agreement made, endorsed by the leaders, to establish what they call ACT-NET, which is the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group that has now established a network where they will agree to meet with law enforcement officials, law officials, every year, maybe several times, and then keep on working on this issue of corruption and domestic bribery, or foreign bribery. So our thought is that this will continue on to China, where they will get law enforcement officials to get together and look at best practices or, for example, OECD anticorruption guidelines and rules, which many APEC members have already signed on to. And – please have a seat. And of course, the U.S. – also we have our own laws that sort of try to regulate our companies and how they do business abroad in terms of preventing corruption practices.
So it’s very significant, I thought, in terms of the announcement of this network that will start to look at how we all deal with corruption issues, which, frankly speaking, is something – it’s just not a stranger to the region. Let me just put it that way. And so I think very important to sort of begin this rules-based – constructing this rules-based system for moving ahead on improving trade and investment across the region among different countries.
Education is a very big thing as well, and I heard quite a number of discussions, interventions by our leaders on this. The goal, of course, is to decide to improve cross-border education opportunities, to – the target is to try to get that to about 1 million students crossing borders to study in different economies by 2020. And – but beyond the volume itself, the idea is to try to look at how – what the current flow is of educational opportunities and try to change it so that it actually benefits a lot of the developing economies, not just having – for example, there are about 200,000 students from China every year going to the U.S., or from other places. A lot going to Australia from other places. But what we’re hoping to do with this is look at the current pattern and try to help those economies that probably – whose students probably need more educational opportunities, who cannot find it in their own economies, and then try to provide enough scholarships and so on to get them to have the opportunity to go and study in different places.
Australia is very interested in this as well, not just in terms of getting students to Australia. But actually, interestingly, they have what they call a reverse Colombo Plan. And the reverse Colombo Plan is actually to encourage Australians to go out to the region to study in different regions so that they have better integration with people and cultures around the region. We have an Australian reporter here, right?
MR. WANG: Okay, good. (Laughter.) I was – I wanted to make sure you’ve got the right one.
And so the idea is – then the idea is – so the idea is beyond just volume. The question is: How do you provide enough opportunities for economies that need it, scholarships for people who need it, to go to different places, and to change the pattern so it’s more beneficial in terms of opportunities and innovation, as well in terms of cultural integration? And I think nothing more important than education, from my point of view, having come in from an academic background, than to have students travel around to different regions.
One – by the way, one of the proposals I heard – and I’m still trying to confirm this, but I think I heard it, I thought – was the proposal by Chinese Taipei, for example. Vincent Siew, the representative for Chinese Taipei, talked in in his intervention about the fact that Taiwan has a lot of schools, universities, but not enough students. So exactly the opposite where they would say – they would like to offer – I think he mentioned something like 20,000 a year to encourage from the region to come to Taiwan to study. And again, that would be quite a important thing. And of course, already a lot of Chinese students from mainland China are actually studying in Taiwan, and the other way around as well. So I think that’s – again, it has implications beyond economics. It has cultural, political implications, I think, that are quite important.
I can go down the whole list, but I don’t want to get too much, because I know you have a lot of questions as well to ask. But then let me just go to 2014. Yeah, just very quickly. So in my conversation in Beijing, I know that China has several themes and one of them is, of course, what they call regional economic integration. And that – under that, I think, China would like to look at – as I am told, look at how all of these different FTAs, RTAs, TPP, RCEP and so on – how do they all – how should they all, in some ways, interact, if anything, but as a building block, of course, towards the free trade area of the Asia Pacific, because there are about 75 of these already – FTAs, RTAs. Some are bilateral, some are larger. Of course, some are not completed, some are. But – so China is very – is focused a little bit on trying to at least begin the step of trying to examine – open learning more about each of these different agreements and seeing where there might be some synergy and a building block towards the free trade area of the Asia Pacific.
And I think it’s a – it was also a topic that came up at the foreign ministers meeting. They had a breakout session – I’m sorry, the Leaders’ Meeting did a breakout session on that about – oh, correction, foreign ministers meeting – a breakout session about regional economic architecture. So they started the conversation already in Bali. And I think the Chinese are very interested in carrying this forward.
And also, I sense from the Chinese when I talk to them that they are very interested in, of course, continuing this whole connectivity theme, which is, to a very large extent, a continuation of the theme in Indonesia regarding especially the infrastructure investment and development. And again, I mentioned earlier the APEC investment – infrastructure investment bank, and how that will, hopefully, allow greater investment in the region’s infrastructure to improve connectivity. And then the Australian one, I think, will continue as well, and how you want – and everybody, even the – I think President Xi Jinping and others, all – when they talked about this – they all said at the end of the day, you need private sector money. You can’t just use public money and pour it into different places.
So the question, then, is: How do you find ways to encourage and provide incentives and some guarantees of sorts for private sector to be willing to invest in building infrastructure? And I think the whole idea of the Australian initiative, to build this pilot center in Jakarta, with the initial $3 million and so on, is precisely to do that, to bring in the private sector, consult with them, use the APEC checklist for sort of bankable projects. How do you make it attractive? How do you ensure that the private sector can do this? And I attended a lunch also with Secretary Pritzker and others, business people, and they all said the private sector actually has the money, has the capital. The question is: Will they put it in this area, in terms of infrastructure development? And so I think that’s going to be very important.
And then the last theme that China had was sort of what they called the quality growth, meaning basically sustainable growth, I think, pretty much. Improving the role of women – I think we’ve already decided that there’ll be a women’s ministerial conference in China in May, I think. And again, making sure that growth is sustainable. And again, none of this – on the Chinese part, they qualify it by saying none of this has been decided at the highest level exactly what will happen, but we’re holding the first informal SOM in Beijing in December – second week of December, I believe. And hopefully, at that time we’ll be able to lay out what we think the themes will be, working with China, with China as the host, and get better ideas of how we should move forward. And so we within our government are beginning the process of working with the interagency to find out what does USDA, Commerce, we and all – what are our interests in terms of working with APEC to move this forward.
So again, the last thing I would say is that we are very much looking forward to a very good year in 2014 in China, because I think China certainly has the capability, and I think we are all eager to cooperate.
MODERATOR: Great. So although it is rather informal, and I expect that Dr. Wang will just call on people, unless you say otherwise.
MR. WANG: Sure.
MODERATOR: I – for the purposes of the transcript, it would be helpful, however, if you were just to introduce yourself and your outlet as well. So we’ve – the little black things there are microphones, so you don’t have to worry about that.
MR. WANG: Okay. Ladies first. (Laughter.) Always. Always.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Jane Tang, from Caixin in Beijing. My question is about TTP. You mentioned about the integration of the region. And you know that several countries in Asia are – negotiate with TPP right now. So how do you think the impact will be in this region?
And also, China now, it is the first time they show they are willing or have ambitions of joining the TPP (inaudible).
MR. WANG: Sure. Well, I think – I’m glad you raised that as a first question because I forgot I was supposed to say something about that as well. But I think – as you know in APEC they – in Bali, I should say, they had a discussion, at the end of the TPP leaders, who met together in Bali at the end of the leaders week on the 8th of October, and so they were able to hold that and they – after that, they issued a statement. And it’s a fairly short statement, but basically it stresses the commitment of all of the leaders who were at that meeting to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of the year. So it’s a very important, I think, commitment at the highest level.
And so – so I think it’s – although it’s not technically part of APEC, it came from APEC, as you know, because with the P4 and then eventually more. And so I think the hope is that – I guess the importance of this is that we hope that this will be done, as we – as the leaders committed. And once that’s done, I think, we know that a number of economies have already expressed interest – strong interest in participating in it as soon as possible. And I think Korea is one of them that we’ve seen in the media, at least has expressed that interest. Even China, as you point out. I’ve seen some of the – I still get the media readout every morning from China, from my friends there, when I used to work there. And recently I saw some article that says China should join TPP, not just that we should look at different ways, but we should try to join or something like that.
But in any case, the point then is that once we finish this initial agreement on TPP, the point then is to let people know what it says, have people review – urge people to review it as quickly as possible, see what – whether or not it’s something that they would like to join. And what – if they decide it’s something that they would like to get involved in, then all economies – actually even outside APEC, not necessarily just inside APEC, but certainly within APEC – should look at it, and then if they’re interested, they should then begin talking to the 12 current – the current 12 economies or countries – or economies, to begin to, not negotiate, but begin to get their – to build consensus to allow these different economies to join.
So it’s a consensus process, and there’s no one economy can decide this or that. But – so let’s say if you were Korea, let’s say you were interested, what you would do is you go to the 12 that are already there, say “I have an interest in joining,” and then you begin to talk about the agreements in there and whether or not they would – whether or not this is a good time for your economy to actually begin formal negotiations. But you have – they have to announce it. Once you announce it, there is a period of time, at least in Congress and whether or not we have to submit to Congress. And when we open up a new negotiation with – free trade negotiation with another economy, we have to have a notification. I think others may have similar processes. I’m not sure.
But then once you do that, then you begin – you announce formal negotiations. Japan did that fairly recently, and I think they started negotiation technically in July, if I’m not mistaken. And so we’re hoping. I think, as I said, it’s open to all economies. And it’s just a matter of the economies deciding whether or not it’s in their interest to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. Ching-Yi Chang with Phoenix TV. First of all, you just mentioned in 2014, the theme could be the integration of the RTA and FTA. Does the U.S. support that idea? And also, second question, was the absence of President Obama to APEC summit – did that affect the result of the summit?
MR. WANG: Sure. Okay. On the first question of the discussion whether we support or not, the leader statement essentially, I think, calls for a discussion of these different RTAs, FTAs, which would include TPP and RCEP. So certainly we signed on to the leaders – we endorse the leaders’ statement. So I think we clearly are supportive of discussions, transparency to understand what all of these different agreements say so people can have a better knowledge before they decide whether or not it’s in their interest to do some – to join or not to join.
So I think, yeah, we’re supportive of the discussion of it and the examination and more transparency now that hopefully negotiations would be over, you could have more transparency in terms of what it actually does. And so what happens after that is another issue, but obviously, we also are, I think, rightly so justifiably so, I think, very – would like to underscore in many ways how the TPP is the next generation of free trade agreement, and that it has had fairly hard and high standards, and therefore, certainly I think this is what I think makes TPP stand out. And we certainly are very much interested in making sure that we maintain those high standards. I think that would be a very key point.
In terms of your second question about President Obama not having shown up and whether that affects the APEC or would not, certainly the, for example, if you’re going back to TPP, the TPP Leaders’ Meeting was held, so there was no impact on that at all. Kerry – Secretary Kerry attended the New Zealand leader – he chaired the meeting. And so the statement is issued, and I actually have a copy of the statement here – but was issued and certainly I – so I think no effect whatsoever at least on the TPP progress and the meeting there.
And in terms of APEC as a whole, I think to be very honest, especially people who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, yeah, we were all disappointed that we couldn’t see Obama, can’t take a picture with him, and it’d be great if he came and we certainly think – and the other thing, of course, the other leaders, I’m sure were sort of disappointed that President Obama could not come.
But I think some of you were there. I’m not sure, but any of you in Bali? You were there.
MR. WANG: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’ve been to Bali.
MR. WANG: No, but you were there for the meeting in Bali in --
MR. WANG: -- you were there? Okay. Yeah. And I remember at the OECD summit, when President Putin spoke after Secretary Obama – Secretary Kerry, he spoke there, and the one question came up from the – I think it’s the media. I wasn’t sure. There was a lady there who asked a question about President Obama’s absence. And Putin said, “If I were -- ” President Putin said, “If I were in the same position with political issues at home, we all understand that this is something very important in terms of domestic politics, and I would not have come, and other leaders would not have either.”
And I think the bottom line is that, as Secretary Kerry said very clearly, this – most people understand that this is a moment of politics in the U.S., and for those of you who live here, you know what politics is like. And so – but the most important point is that it has no – from our point of view, no substantive impact on our commitment to the region, whether it’s a rebalancing policy or just overall long-term commitment to the region. From our point of view, it has absolutely no impact on that at all. And of course, we’ll see. I mean, in the long term, we’ll see whether or not people will see that, in fact, there is no impact, that we will have a continuing commitment to the region that we’ve had all these years, especially with President Obama announcing the rebalancing.
And the reason – I mean, let me explain – the reason why that would be the case is because fundamentally, our interests – our economic ties with the region is growing, has grown, is growing, and will continue to grow. And as long as it grows in terms of trade, investment, and so on and so forth, students coming – we now have SelectUSA with a lot of Chinese and Japanese and Korean investors coming in, about over a thousand from the world – around the world, about 200 from Asia. So as long as we have these interests and so on, then this is what’s going to determine whether or not we continue to – our commitment and increase our ties to the region. So I think that’s definitely – from our point of view, definitely going to continue.
QUESTION: Boya Li with People’s Daily.
MR. WANG: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I want to first follow up on your statement. You said that if U.S. want to find agreements with other country, it has to go through – in terms of free trade, has to go through – it has to go through Congress.
MR. WANG: Right.
QUESTION: And do you think that the difficulties, the dysfunction of the government, this could hurt your partner’s confidence?
MR. WANG: Mm-hmm. I think you’re talking – I’m talking – we’re talking about two separate things. The one thing I’m talking about now is the notification. In other words, when we begin negotiations with any other economy or country on a free trade agreement, we simply need to notify. I said it goes through Congress, that there’s a 90-day period, and to say that we are doing this, we are entering negotiations. That’s one issue that I was talking about. The other issue is the, as she was talking about, TPA.
QUESTION: So this is only a process issue?
MR. WANG: Yeah. That’s a – yeah, we’ll – we have to let Congress know that we’re beginning a negotiation with others. Now, after it’s all done and you agree on something, then obviously, you have a question of ratification, like every other economy or country has. You have to – if you had agreement – in our case, of course, we had to have Senate ratification, so that’s a separate issue. And I think all of our economies or countries have that requirement. And so we’ll do that.
And I think – on that issue, I think, specifically, you may be referring to the trade promotion authority, TPA.
MR. WANG: And so I think on that issue, I think – I can’t say anything definitive because it’s really up to the Senate and Congress and so on, but I would say that as far as we know, there’s strong support in the United States Congress and so on for moving forward on these agreements.
QUESTION: And as you have just mentioned, that the U.S. fundamental interest in the Pacific is its economic ties. So in the future, will U.S. interest in a TPP overriding its interest impact meetings?
MR. WANG: I think we see it as complementary. We don’t see it as competitive. As you said earlier, TPP in some ways grew out of APEC, and because some – in APEC, we have what we call – it’s all consensus, as you know, but in – we have what we now call a pathfinder process, where some members of 21 economies want to go ahead and do something more binding, they can’t. So they did that. Others did not want to go as quickly. They’ll wait. And then perhaps after people look at TPP after it’s finished, other economies may decide that they would like to join TPP. So it would also be APEC economies, then, in this case, joining it, so that’s one thing.
And the second thing, I think TPP certainly, if it’s completed and more people join it, will be very good. But at the same time, after it does that, there’s still a lot of other areas where you can have, apart from TPP, trade and investment liberalization areas, like the – we did the – as you know, the environmental goods list, there may be other products that people want to look at, categories of products.
Apart from that, I mentioned – even if you have all these agreements, the question is: How do you move the goods? Let’s say you agree to have free flow – very low tariffs, no tariffs on this or that good, but to actually move it, you need supply chain efficiency. You need ports, you need regulations, good government practices. And so all of that, APEC is so much involved in. We have – we issued a good regulatory practices report that the U.S. actually did, and I think China has agreed to do a review of where we are on those good regulatory practices.
In Japan, we had discussion of the – what we call the APEC new strategy for structural reform, and again – so all of those deal with sort of how you actually then do it and deal with some of the nontariff barriers and – for example, if you’re a pharmaceutical firm, if every country or every economy has a different regulation, one economy – if you want to export something, you have to go to find out if you meet this country’s regulations for import of medical devices or pharmaceutical products, you go to another one, another one. It takes a long time. So what we’re trying to do is harmonize it. So APEC is very much involved in harmonization of standards.
So all of that makes APEC even more important, I would say, not less important, especially if, in fact, goods have to be moved around because they are allowed to because of low tariffs and whatever else, you really need to then make sure that you deal with the nontariff barriers. And finally, I would say that APEC is very – as I was hinting at a little bit, APEC is – unlike a lot of other – frankly speaking, other sort of trade agreements – free trade agreements or WTO, even, APEC is very much into sustainable development. I don’t see WTO or others dealing with women’s issues, for example, or SMEs. But – so APEC’s role in terms of trying to – and I think APEC, from my point of view, is very wise, because it knows that, for example, in the case of so many economies, including China, sometimes people focus too much on GDP growth. You produce, you produce, you produce, then the environment gets bad; you have no conservation policies; you have, of course, corruption; you have a lot of these different issues that eventually will impede the growth.
Now, APEC recognizes this right away because we have a broad area where we’re dealing with anticorruption, we’re dealing with conservation of resources in terms of environment, energy efficiency. China probably will make it so the ocean’s an important part of the agenda. Indonesia started that already. They call it mainstreaming ocean issues, meaning, conserving fishes – fishery, and not simply just illegal and massively harvesting fish and then killing the sources. So APEC is, I think, remarkable among all of the associations that I know of that actually does focus on sustaining growth and not just growth.
And so I think precisely the opposite. I would say that with TPP doing it, that’s great, but APEC’s value would be just as important, if not more important.
QUESTION: I was wondering if, during the last 12 months and the amount that the State Department’s had to focus on issues around the world and in North Africa and the Middle East, if there was a sense among any APEC leaders or diplomats that the rebalance to Asia had somehow slipped from front or not?
MR. WANG: Well, that’s a good question.
QUESTION: Sorry, I should have introduced myself. I’m Nick O’Malley from the Sydney Morning Herald.
MR. WANG: Right. No, that’s a good question, and I – in fact, I was at a lunch with your ambassador, Kim Beazley, earlier this week, and the same discussion came up.
I would say – I can’t speak for everyone in the region. There may be some leaders in the region who feel that way, that maybe because Secretary Kerry has been spending as much time in the Middle East and so on, so much time on the Middle East, that whether or not that means – it may have an effect on our Asia policy. I can’t speak for how they see it.
All I can say is that as I sit where I am, especially in EAP Bureau, I do not see any diminution of our actual substantive commitment to the region, and I don’t see any change in the policy there. Now, hopefully, we can multitask. We’re big enough at least to be able to multitask. There are important issues in the Middle East, important issues elsewhere in the world, and there’s always been. But I think – I don’t see at all any diminution of our focus and our, actually, investment of resources in the region.
And I think you’ll see – in the coming months and the coming years, I think you’ll see continuing sort of emphasis on that. I think you’ll begin to see some leaders traveling. And of course, when China begins to host and APEC – certainly on some – on the APEC side, you’ll have that, but as you know, just before the APEC Leaders’ Meeting, we had Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hague go to Japan. We have very good ties there, and certainly with Australia as well. So I think we can do that. I think we can do – we’re big enough to be able to do both, and the bottom line is there certainly is no change in terms of what we think our leaders are telling us to do in terms of the East Asia Pacific region.
QUESTION: I’m Ha Thun Nguyen from the Vietnam News Agency. You said that Obama’s absence from (inaudible) event doesn’t have an impact on U.S.-Asia relations, but in your view point, has – did it give China an opportunity to take advantage of that to influence – to boost influence in Asia? And has China --
MR. WANG: Right.
QUESTION: -- capitalized on that opportunity?
MR. WANG: Right. I would say that I can’t really comment on China and what its policies are. What I will say is not so much that it doesn’t have an impact on the relationship. Maybe it doesn’t. But what I was saying is that it’s not having an impact on our policy. In other words, our policy and our commitment to the region, as far as I can see, remains the same, and as strong as it has been.
Now, what other countries do in terms of – in the context of, perhaps, the President not having been there or in terms of the symbolic – the symbolism of it, I think I can’t really comment on that. So I would sort of limit my comment to the – and – but the other thing is, of course, Ambassador Beazley said the same thing. Now, some may – some economies – again, different leaders will have different views, but I think Ambassador Beazley said it very clearly in the lunch, was that from the point of view of Australia and a lot of our allies and friends in the region, they – it’s fair to say that they may worry about it, but from this – from their point of view, there has been no substantive change and will not be any substantive change in the long term, because our commitment’s a long-term thing. It’s not a tomorrow, do we attend this meeting tomorrow, do we do this next day.
I think most of our friends and allies that we’ve had for 50 years understand it’s a long-term commitment in the region, and I don’t think this one event in particular has any real impact on their perception, again, because, I think – and we continue to see – maybe just from my perspective, but we continue to see that a lot of these leaders in different countries very much welcome our continued engagement.
QUESTION: I’m Tony Liao from Central News Agency, Taiwan. If Taiwan want to give a shot at the TPP, what’s your opinion about Taiwan and Taipei, Beijing have the issue come up, may be part of it, or some of the barriers for Taiwan to join?
MR. WANG: Well, I think Taiwan is a member of APEC, as you know – as everybody knows, I guess. And I would say that – when I was in Taipei, I met with some officials there as well, but I think the point is that any of the economies, including Taipei, if you – if Taipei is interested, will essentially have the same task, you might say, before them, which is to talk to the other 12 members – to the 12 members and see whether or not – they have to, of course, review the agreement first, and then to talk to the others. And I don’t see any barriers to that, from my point of view, in terms of Taipei actually – if it considers it to be beneficial, and if the other 12 economies consider it to be something that is attainable, then I think there is no barrier from my perspective.
QUESTION: We know Taiwan is talking to Singapore about their FTA, and a BIA with United States --
MR. WANG: Right.
QUESTION: -- and (inaudible) all these things that’s going on. Are those going to be helpful or to – in a place like Taiwan to build up the profile in TPP?
MR. WANG: No, I think we – our message to Taiwan when I was there and others was that – is that it is helpful, because a free trade agreement like TPP has, of course, fairly high standards in terms of IPR, in terms of information, privacy flows, cross-border information flows, has very high standards on a number of issues. And so obviously, to the extent that Taiwan begins to make progress in other areas on these same issues allows it to make it easier for Taiwan at some point then to join, because it would have already done a lot of these things already, so it’s not as hard to move the next step.
So the hard – the faster – not just for Taiwan, but any economy, the more you have done these in different areas, then it’s – for example, Korea – it will be relatively, I would say, not extremely hard. Because for Korea, you already have a KORUS with the United States. And the KORUS is a very high-standard agreement. So to actually then shift it to apply to 20 other economies may not be as hard. For those who don’t have these agreements or have not made progress in terms of TIFA or whatever else, then it’s a harder task to actually meet the commitments.
So I would say, in answer to your question, yes, I think that progress on all of these different areas vis-a-vis us, vis-a-vis Singapore, New Zealand already – you already have a free trade agreement in New Zealand – it all helps to make it easier for Taiwan to actually be able to accept the standards of TPP.
MODERATOR: We have time for maybe one more question.
QUESTION: Can I ask the last one?
MR. WANG: Sure.
QUESTION: It’s – before APEC, President Xi raised the concept of new Silk Road economic belt between China and Eurasian countries. The New York Times compared this with – this idea with the New Silk Road Initiative proposed by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What do you see of this comparison? And how do you see that the New Silk Road Initiative has played out as envisioned?
MR. WANG: Okay. I have to confess that I did hear of this reference, even in Bali, and so on, but I have to confess I am not really familiar with specifically what it all means in terms of – you can talk about the concept, but in terms of what is – what steps are being taken, what do you need, I frankly have not seen very much on that, and so I can’t really comment specifically of – in terms of what it eventually will mean, in terms of the impact on the reality on the ground and so on.
So specifically, I can’t say much, but in more general terms, I would say that obviously, the idea of going beyond APEC, let’s say, and establishing and strengthening the links with Eurasia, with India, with Europe, and so on – obviously in theory, it certainly is something that we hopefully all aim for and should aim for, to expand the community. So I don’t think there’s any real – theoretically, there’s anything really objectionable to it.
Of course, like everything else, when you’re growing up, you take one step at a time, and if you’re too ambitious, sometimes it’s difficult. And we all know the WTO has been having problems. When you include 150 economies all trying to achieve something – and mandatory as well, not just concessive, but mandatory – you will meet problems. And so as you’re growing up, you do certain things. You don’t take calculus before you take geometry or math or something. You have to take it one at a time.
So I think the only concern I would personally have is not a government policy – this is just theory I’m talking about – but is that we need to make sure that as we advance, that we consolidate what we have and make sure that it works, and then you move ahead, and you move ahead, and you move ahead. So I think – I certainly think in the final analysis, in the long term, something like the Silk Road and so on would be very useful if it means – we’re now, for example, doing TTIP with – we’re starting TTIP soon with Europe. And so we’re adding on and adding on, so I think that’s the way to do it.
Now if – we, at the same time, did in Bali have a standalone statement supporting the WTO process – for example, the expansion of the ITA agreement products and membership, expansion of the EGS list in terms of products. So we already have the ITA list; we now are trying to expand it more, and we’re trying to make – hopefully allow the – encourage the – all the countries within WTO also to try to do more. But obviously, it’s not that easy. If it were that easy to do 150 countries all getting together, we would have done it a long time ago. It’s just – it is a very difficult thing to do, and so we’re all starting a little bit smaller. So –
QUESTION: Can I have one last, please?
MR. WANG: Sure. Yeah. Sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: In regards of environmental issues, have you seen any measure of progress made in Bali?
MR. WANG: Environmental issues, yeah. How major it is, of course, will depend on how you look at it, but just before that, we had – just before Bali, we had the Renewable Energy Conference in Bali before the Leaders’ Meeting, and I attended that as well.
And one of the things we did, first of all – and it’s also reflected in the Leaders’ Meeting – is that a number of countries or economies have agreed to do what they call fossil fuel subsidy reforms, which means that a number of economies, including the U.S., and I think Peru and others, will – hopefully will do – will follow on – have agreed to actually begin to do peer reviews, volunteer reports on the kind of subsidies that they put on fossil fuel. And I think it’s estimated by some organization that each year, our governments combined provide something like $500 billion worth of subsidies to fossil fuel, consumers, or production side and different sides. And so a number of economies – New Zealand’s very much in the lead on that as well, Australia not as much – but have --
QUESTION: They were.
MR. WANG: They were. (Laughter). Yeah, but anyway, the – our sort of – the first step is to say, well, how are you subsidizing fossil fuel? Because every time you subsidize fossil fuel, it means that in some ways, you’re creating less incentive for people to invest in renewable energies. And so – and justifiably, a lot of economies say – or governments say, well, some of these subsidies are justifiable because they’re going to the poor people. And there is no quarrel with that. I mean, there are different policy reasons for wanting to do these different things.
But what we – at this point, everybody agreed to it, it’s in the leaders’ statement, is that we will move forward to at least examine where these subsidies are, and then try to eliminate those – hopefully, on your own, voluntarily – try to eliminate those that are inefficient or wasteful, and sometimes we don’t know, but we’re actually subsidizing rich people to buy cheaper gas or gasoline. And so that doesn’t have to be done, and also a lot of the subsidy could be used for other purposes – to help poor people go to school, build schools, do different things. Why subsidize a rich person to drive his car with cheaper oil or gas, so – gasoline?
So we did come up with this statement, and we’re going to work towards the goal of, by 2014, having a lot of the – more of the sort of subsidy reforms on fossil fuel, subsidies reformed. And that would be the first step – one of the steps, not the first, but one of the steps to move forward on.
And there are a lot of different ideas on – that came out on investing in renewable energy, so a lot of – in the conference itself, as well as within the energy working group in the – in APEC are looking at ways of encouraging investments in renewable energies. And so that’s very important.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WANG: Sorry, if you need to ask a question, I’ll – go ahead and ask the question. Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m Kunihiko Yasue from Yomiuri Shimbun. I’d like to ask TPP negotiation. And so now, you can say that TPP negotiation will be completed by the end of this year, according to the commitment of the leaders. But some countries are concerned about the current United States situation, because – I’d like to ask you – TPA because some countries are thinking, even if their agreement will be completed as far as an interest case, it will be modified without TPA. So do you think it’s possible to complete – conclude the agreement by the end of this year without TPA?
MR. WANG: Yeah, I think so. Because as you saw in the statement, people – all the leaders have committed to concluding it this year, and we still don’t have TPA at this point. So they – but they – despite that, they have actually committed to try to complete it by the end of this year. So obviously, it means that everyone thinks it’s possible. The lack of a TPA does present a question mark, but there’s so many question mark out there, you can’t stop with every question mark.
So everybody has said, yeah, there are a lot of question marks – will it be ratified? So all 12 economies, when they go back, let’s say with the TPP done, they still have the question mark: Can they ratify it? So the question is: Is it possible to complete the agreement without certainty of ratification? The answer is, yes, because that’s a fact. That’s how the process works. You have to come to an agreement first, then you ratify it. To say that, oh, I’m not sure that you can ratify it so let’s not do the agreement, would not be the right order.
Now it may be that we have some issues with ratification later on. I don’t know. But I think what we saw in Bali was a commitment by all the leaders there, that were present there, to say that they think that they can do that. And in fact, it says, “We have agreed that negotiators should now proceed to resolve all outstanding issues with the objective of completing this year a comprehensive and balanced … agreement.” So nothing can be stronger than that. I think the leaders – these are not junior leaders. These are the leaders of the economies that are saying, we’re committed to do it by the end of this year despite some uncertainties that remain.
So do I think it can be – I think we’re committed to it.
QUESTION: Okay, let me talk about China. Somebody said, China has indirectly said joining TPP, it is reported, but like in South Korea. So I’m wondering if – whether China is very leaning to join TPP or not. Did you say that some Chinese Government official has such kind of statement?
MR. WANG: No, I did not – I mean, we – as I said earlier when I was in China after Bali, we had discussions of TPP, RCEP and so on, I did not see any Chinese – I did hear any Chinese official tell me that we are committed to join, we want to join, we’ve decided to join. I haven’t seen that. But clearly, compared especially to a year ago when the attitude was somewhat more negative, this is a containment of China, this is a way meant to exclude China, a lot of talk like that – I didn’t hear that at all on this trip. It was, say, we want to know more about TPP, we want to know more about how we’re going in RCEP, but TPP is, of course, 2013; RCEP is 2015.
But there was a great curiosity and great interest in finding out more on this visit. So – but no commitments or no – nobody told me that, oh, China has decided to join – of course, you can’t. You really also have to – but you can. You can decide that you want to try, but I have not even heard that at all at this point. Just more, we want to know more about it, and we want to see if it’s a possibility, clearly.
Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking Friday night happy hour time – (laughter) – away from you. So hopefully we’ll have another chance to talk. We – I’m very eager to go to China to find out more about what they think, and again, expectations are very high that we’ll do that. And on that trip, I also hope – actually hope to travel to Vietnam and other places associated with that to work with – as you know, because APEC is a consensus body, we have to work by consensus. So it’s very important for me to get to know and to develop relationships with all of my counterparts so we can try to come together and decide what to do, because you can’t really force anyone to do anything. Nothing – everything is consensual.
Okay, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
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