WASHINGTON – U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab will visit Singapore August 22 and August 23 and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 23 through August 26 to participate in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers meeting. Ambassador Schwab will then visit China for the first time as the United States Trade Representative, from August 27 through August 29, 2006.
"I am looking forward to meeting with my colleagues from Southeast Asia to discuss joint plans for strengthening our trade and investment relationship," said Ambassador Schwab. "ASEAN is a one of the most rapidly growing and dynamic regions in the world and a commercially and strategically significant U.S. partner. We view intensifying relations with Southeast Asia as a top priority."
During the meeting, Ambassador Schwab also will discuss with ASEAN ministers, as well as her counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, and Japan, ways to get the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations back on track. The United States remains committed to achieving an ambitious market-opening outcome that creates meaningful economic opportunities and generates economic growth worldwide.
During her stop in Singapore, Ambassador Schwab will meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss regional economic and trade issues and to review ongoing developments since the U.S. – Singapore FTA came into force in 2004. Then, during her stay in Malaysia, Ambassador Schwab plans to meet with Malaysian officials and stakeholders to discuss the United States-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. The two sides have concluded two rounds of negotiations and have made solid progress toward their goal of concluding a mutually-beneficial agreement by the end of the year. The United States and Malaysia are preparing for a third round of negotiations in Malaysia during the week of September 18.
While in Asia, Schwab will also make her first visit to China as U.S. Trade Representative. She is scheduled to meet with Commerce Minister Bo Xilai during her visit to discuss China’s role in helping to restart the Doha Round negotiations and to urge more progress by China on a number of issues pertaining to its WTO commitments, such as strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights and increasing access for American goods and services.
ASEAN members include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Trade between the United States and ASEAN has grown substantially over the past decade and collectively, ASEAN member countries now are the fourth largest trading partner of the United States, with two-way trade totaling about $150 billion last year.
In 2002, President Bush announced the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI), which sought to further strengthen U.S. trade and investment ties to ASEAN, both regionally and bilaterally. The EAI offers the prospect of FTAs with ASEAN members that have a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States and are committed to economic reforms and openness. The United States concluded an FTA with Singapore in 2003 and is currently negotiating FTAs with Thailand and Malaysia. It recently concluded a TIFA with Cambodia and a bilateral market access agreement with Vietnam as part of its bid to join the World Trade Organization. The United States has active trade and investment dialogues with Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei and is working with Laos to support its WTO accession.
Since the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into force in 2004, trade between the two countries has increased by 12.6 percent to nearly $36 billion in 2005, making Singapore the 16th largest goods trading partner of the United States. At the same time, U.S. foreign direct investment in Singapore expanded to $56.9 billion in 2004, a 13 percent increase from 2003.
The United States has taken a number of steps this year to ensure that its trade relationship with China is more balanced. This past February, USTR unveiled a top-to-bottom review of U.S. trade policy towards China. This review called upon China to more fully implement its WTO commitments and announced steps the United States will take to better monitor and enforce China's compliance with international obligations. At the same time, the United States has promoted increased dialogue with China on bilateral trade issues. In April, during meetings of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), China committed to addressing a number of U.S. trade concerns in three areas: enhancing access of U.S. companies, farmers and ranchers to the Chinese market; improving protection of intellectual property rights in China; and moving toward a more transparent trade regime.