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  November 26th, 2015 | Written by

Obama’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance: Trade and Investment

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  • Asia and the Pacific is increasingly the world’s political and economic center of gravity.
  • White House: TPP is a critical step toward revitalizing the open economic system the U.S. has led since WWII.
  • U.S. government will ensure TPP parties implement enforce the agreement’s obligations.
  • U.S. is working through APEC to reduce tariffs, open services markets, and identify barriers to digital trade.
  • White House: U.S. “will continue to negotiate investment treaties with key regional countries.”

On the occasion of President Obama’s ninth trip to Asia and the Pacific earlier this month the White House is touting the accomplishments of the administration’s commitment to advancing a broader U.S. regional strategy, known as the rebalance.

“With nearly half of the earth’s population, one-third of global GDP, and some of the world’s most capable militaries, Asia and the Pacific is increasingly the world’s political and economic center of gravity,” noted a recently-released White House paper. “The region’s dynamism, expanding trade and investment, growing ranks of capable powers, and increasing people-to-people ties with the United States present extraordinary opportunities that this Administration is leveraging.”

The administration claims it has made significant progress in advancing the vision of the rebalance. Among them, the U.S. has strengthened its alliances with Australia, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, while maintaining a long-standing alliance with Thailand. The U.S. has enhanced its defense posture in the region, the paper said, and prioritized Asia for the most advanced military capabilities.

On the trade and investment front, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “is central to our vision of the region’s future and our place in it.”

“Our top priority is to secure ratification of TPP and move swiftly toward implementation of the agreement,” said the White House release. “TPP is a critical step toward our strategic goal of revitalizing the open, rules-based economic system that the United States has led since World War II.”

The U.S. government will use its resources and technical expertise to ensure that parties to the TPP implement and effectively enforce the obligations of the agreement, including through capacity-building assistance.

To complement TPP, the administration is pressing forward the work of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in promoting regional economic integration, through programming on trade facilitation, customs modernization, and standards harmonization. “We are working through APEC to reduce applied tariffs on environmental goods, advocate for more open services markets, identify barriers to digital trade, and alternatives to localization policies, and develop best practices for trade secrets protection,” said the paper. “Bilaterally, we will continue to negotiate investment treaties with key regional countries, and intensify our support to the U.S. private sector to identify and seize opportunities in Asia, by expanding staffing at our embassies in the region and pressing for policy and regulatory changes needed to realize trade and investment opportunities.”