FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai attends a news conference at Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Japan April 20, 2023. REUTERS/Issei Kato
TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Thursday Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade negotiations are progressing “at a very quick pace” and she expects results from the talks as early as by the end of the year.
The United States and 13 Indo-Pacific countries last year launched negotiations on IPEF, Washington’s first major pan-Asian trade engagement effort in nearly a decade.
“I don’t have a crystal ball … but it is absolutely in the spirit of the IPEF to be able to demonstrate that we can deliver real outcomes as we go, and not have to wait several years to realize an outcome,” Tai told a Tokyo news conference.
“I’m very optimistic that you will see results soon and maybe even over the course of this year.”
Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) in 2017, leaving the field open to China to expand its regional influence.
Countries in the IPEF talks include Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Together with the United States, the participants represent some 40% of global GDP.
The third round of IPEF negotiations is scheduled to take place in Singapore next month.
The China-backed free-trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), took effect last year, grouping 15 Asia-Pacific economies including Australia and Japan as well as all 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.