US Trade Representative admits ‘course adjustment’ is needed in Asia

The US trade ambassador has acknowledged that the US needs to make a “correction of course” in the Asia-Pacific region, as Washington tries to re-establish its status as an economic superpower after the It withdrew from the trade pact under Donald Trump.

Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, was directly requested by the Japanese foreign minister during her visit to Tokyo to lead the US back to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), inheriting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

But in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Tai laid out ways the US plans to strengthen ties with partners without joining the regional pact. She argues that there are other structures better placed to address challenges than one commercial agreement negotiated over eight years ago.

Ms. Tai said that the focus of her visit, which comes at a time when China is becoming more assertive, is to impress partners like Japan with “durability” in US trade policies. .

“The goal of this is to complete the course of adjustment,” she said when asked if she was fixing the credit shortfall in the Asia-Pacific region. She added that for US allies in the region, which is obligated to provide “endurance to our trade policies that will enjoy a wide politically supported base”.

Mr. Tai added that there was “a real opportunity for cooperation between the United States and our partners here on the challenges we face together from non-market and industrial policies.” of China”.

Joe Biden, the President of the United States, has tried to strengthen his country’s ties with allies in Asia in order to counter China’s rising economic and military power.

During her visit to Tokyo, Ear agreed on a new bilateral trade partnership with Japan. Some details of the deal have been revealed by both sides, which people close to both governments believe are a sign of US political sensitivities around trade.

Analysts say that, even if the Biden administration thinks there is no better option than joining the CPTPP, domestic pressure makes it impossible for the country to pursue regional trade agreements.

Japanese trade officials say the focus of Tai’s visit appears to be to draw a clear line under Trump. The Japanese side believes that the new bilateral framework represents the US response to Tokyo’s call for more US involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Tai describes the partnership as a platform to address issues, such as post-Covid recovery and the climate crisis, that are not covered by existing regional trade agreements.

“There really is so much we have to work on and talk about. Challenges in the global economy are approaching us quickly and furiously. And there’s no time to waste. And I think these structures will be extremely valuable to us in strengthening our relationship,” she said.

Mr. Tai’s tour, which includes stops in South Korea and India, comes nearly four years after the US abruptly pulled out of the TPP even though it played a central role in creating the TPP. After it collapsed, the TPP was replaced by the CPTPP, which has now attracted applications from both China and Taiwan.

Mr. Tai said that the global and regional situation – especially regarding the environment and post-Covid recovery – is now very different from when the original 12-member partnership was negotiated more than eight years ago.

“In this time when we are all still struggling to achieve a truly strong economic recovery, and trying to [to come] out of the pandemic. . . Those are the issues that are most pressing and most relevant to our partnership and commitment to the region,” she said.

Mr. Tai’s comments coincided with concerns about supply chain robustness, resource security and whether a combination of those issues would promote the “decoupling” of China and other economies. other in the Asia-Pacific region or not.

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