SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 16 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would continue to work to advance a Pacific trade deal, even as his vision of a regional deal aimed at countering the influence of China stumbled in its attempt to strengthen workers’ rights.
“Our work is not done yet,” Biden told business CEOs 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-quality trade that advances workers’ rights through strong enforcement of labor standards.”
Biden was also scheduled to attend an event Thursday for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a group of 14 countries created by his administration.
Hopes for a trade deal with IPEF were rushed this week. Members failed to agree on improving or respecting labor and environmental standards, people briefed on the negotiations said.
The United States and its Indo-Pacific partners must regroup and “recalibrate” their trade pillar negotiations early next year, the deputy U.S. trade representative said. Sarah Bianchi told Reuters THURSDAY.
Asked how long it would take to complete an IPEF trade deal, an administration official said most negotiations take years, but that the White House intends to work on an “accelerated timeline.”
The White House launched IPEF to strengthen economic engagement with Asia after former President Donald Trump walked away from a regional trade deal in 2017. Biden, a Democrat, could face Republican Trump again in next year’s presidential election, a showdown that could impact U.S. support. multilateral groups like APEC or the IMF and trade policy.
After a day of meetings, Biden said 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 had reached deals to accelerate clean energy transitions, as well as an agreement to fight corruption.
He also touted the launch of an “investment accelerator” to attract private capital to 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 by U.S. companies in the region, including Amazon.com. (AMZN.O)Delta Airlines (DAL.N)PepsiCo (PEP.O)Apple (AAPL.O) and Boeing. (TO FORBID)
He said continued U.S. economic growth would underpin the entire world, an assessment called into question by the weak global economy.
The International Monetary Fund last month reduced its growth forecasts for China and said overall global growth remained weak and uneven despite what he called the “remarkable strength” of the U.S. economy. It forecasts real global GDP growth of 3.0% for 2023.
Biden said 60% of U.S. exports went to APEC countries and that U.S. companies were the largest source of foreign direct investment in those economies, committing at least $40 billion in 2023.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier Thursday The IPEF countries had agreed on several “pillars” of the trade initiative, covering clean energy cooperation and anti-corruption measures. Ministers also formally signed previously agreed text on a third pillar, covering supply chain resilience.
The initiative supported by the United States is not the only one at play. On Wednesday, trade ministers from the countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership welcomed more members to the bloc if they can meet its standards.
An earlier version of this trade bloc was abandoned by Trump, and under Biden, free trade deals were shelved under pressure from labor groups.
APEC members are closely monitoring developments between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals, fearing that ever-increasing competition could disrupt global trade and security.
Biden, who held a high stakes summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in an effort to stabilize strained relations, said a stable relationship between the United States and China was good for the world.
He said he told Xi he saw the United States as “a Pacific nation” that would remain engaged in the region. Biden said the United States was not decoupling its economy from China, but was “reducing risks and diversifying.”
“A stable relationship between the two largest economies in the world is not only good for those two economies but for the world,” Biden said to applause. “It’s good for everyone.”
Richard Adkerson, CEO of mining company 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 meeting of presidents.
“We have to wait and see whether this is 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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