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FREE TRADE IN MEDICINES AND SUPPLIES IS THE HEALTHIEST APPROACH

supplies

FREE TRADE IN MEDICINES AND SUPPLIES IS THE HEALTHIEST APPROACH

What Does Trade Have to Do with the Pandemic?

pandemic is a type of epidemic, wherein an outbreak of a disease not only affects a high proportion of the population at the same time, but also spreads quickly over a wide geographic area.

As the novel coronavirus jumped continents, governments in countries yet unaffected or with low incidence rates moved to prevent “importing” the virus through individual travel. Simultaneously, governments acted to create diagnostic kits and treatments for those with the virus – all praise our frontline healthcare workers.

Unfortunately, what could worsen the situation is a policy practice that seems to be infectious. More than 20 governments are banning the export of needed supplies, a prescription for shortages and higher prices. What the crisis also lays bare is that key countries and many important healthcare products remain outside a WTO agreement that would otherwise enable duty-free trade in the medicines and supplies we need on a regular basis.

Pandemic Proportions

In the history of pandemics, there has been none more deadly than the infamous Bubonic Plague which took 200 million lives in the mid-14th century, wiping out half the population on the European Continent. The pathogen spread through infected fleas carried by rodents, frequent travelers on trading ships. The practice of quarantine began in the seaport of Venice, which required any ships arriving from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days — quaranta giorni — before landing. Two centuries later, Small Pox took 56 million lives. In the modern era, some 40 to 50 million succumbed to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and HIV/AIDS has claimed 25-35 million lives since 1981.

For perspective, and not to minimize its severe toll, the number of fatalities from novel coronavirus will likely exceed 10,000 by the time of this writing. COVID-19, as it is currently known, is a reminder that we live with the ongoing threat from many types of both known infectious diseases like cholera, Zika and Avian flu, as well as diseases yet unknown to us. Although we can more rapidly detect, contain and treat epidemics, diseases now travel at the speed of a person on board an international flight. Our cities are bigger and denser, further enabling rapid transmission.

Pandemic Prepping Includes Trade

Because we are interconnected, we share the health risks, but we can also problem-solve as a global community. Scientists in international labs share insights to identify viruses, swap guidance on how to conduct confirmatory tests, and quickly communicate best practices for containment.

Outside times of crisis, global trade in health-related products and services has laid the foundation for faster medical breakthroughs through international research and development projects, and by diversifying the capability to produce medical supplies, devices, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals.

Innovation thrives in the United States like nowhere else. Yet, no single country, not even the United States, can discover, produce and distribute diagnostics, vaccines and cures for everything that ails us — or invent every medical intervention that improves the productivity and quality of our lives.

One Quarter of medicines have tariffs

A Dose of Foresight

As the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations were drawing to a close in 1994, a group of countries representing (at the time) 90 percent of total pharmaceutical production came to an agreement. Each government would eliminate customs duties on pharmaceutical products and avoid trade-restrictive or trade-distorting measures that would otherwise frustrate the objective of duty-free trade in medicines.

The WTO’s Pharmaceutical Tariff Elimination Agreement, which entered into force on January 1, 1995, is known as a “zero-for-zero initiative” to eliminate duties reciprocally in a particular industrial sector. Signed onto over subsequent years by the United States, Europe’s 28 member states, Japan, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Australia and handful of others, the agreement initially covered approximately 7,000 items that included formulated or dosed medicines, medicines traded in bulk, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and other chemical intermediaries in finished pharmaceuticals.

Signatories agreed to expand the list in 1996, 1998, 2006 and 2010 so it now covers more than 10,000 products. Tariffs were eliminated on a most-favored-nation basis, meaning it was extended to imports from all WTO members, not just parties to the agreement.

Maintenance Drugs

Though an important start, the agreement has not been updated in a decade. Trade in products covered by the WTO agreement has risen from $1.3 trillion in 2009 to $1.9 trillion in 2018. Yet, some 1,000 finished products and 700 ingredients are not covered under the agreement, leaving pharmaceutical trade subject to hundreds of millions in customs duties. With China and India increasing manufacturing over the last decade, the value of global trade included in duty-free treatment decreased from 90 percent in 1995 to 81 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2018.

It is challenging to chart trade statistics and tariffs on health-related products, particularly since many chemical ingredients have both medical and non-medical uses. Here we have attempted to reproduce tables developed by the WTO in 2010, but we do not include a large number of chemicals that have general use whose tariff lines were not enumerated in the WTO’s analysis.

Health Product Import Shares

In 2010, the European Union and the United States together accounted for almost half of all world imports of health-related products. Europe has become a much larger importer while U.S. imports have decreased slightly as a percentage of global imports. Imports by many big emerging markets including Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Turkey, have increased along with their purchasing power. These countries benefit from zero duties when importing from countries that signed on to the WTO Pharmaceutical Trade Agreement.

Health Product Export Shares

On the export side, Europe dramatically increased its share of global exports while the United States dropped across the board compared to 2010, particularly in medical products and supplies. China shows significant growth in exports of inputs specific to the pharmaceutical industry – including antibiotics, hormones and vitamins – as well as medical equipment including diagnostic reagents, gloves, syringes and medical devices. India also increased its exports of all types of pharmaceuticals, particularly ingredients, but did not drive up its share across all types of exported health-related products. China and India would benefit from zero duties without having to reciprocate for exports from countries that signed on to the WTO agreement.

That said, according to the trade data, China and India still only account for 5.4 percent of global exports in health-related products covered by the agreement. Therefore, simply expanding membership to include these countries is not sufficient to enlarge duty-free trade – the number of tariff lines covered by the agreement would also need to expand to capture a significant portion of traded healthcare products.

Emerging Market Pharm Trade

Tariffs as a Symptom

The final price of a pharmaceutical is determined by many factors that differ by country. Costs and markups occur along the distribution chain from port charges to warehousing, to local government taxes, distribution charges, and hospital or retailer markups. Tariffs may seem a relatively small component of the final price, but the effect is compounded as all of these “internal” costs accumulate and they are symptomatic of complex regulatory systems.

A 2017 study by the European Centre for International Political Economy determined that tariffs on final prices add an annual burden of up to $6.2 billion in China. In Brazil and India, tariffs on medicines may increase the final price by up to 80 percent of the ex-factory sales price. Imported pharmaceuticals are at a clear disadvantage and patients bear the burden in cost and diminished availability.

Side Effects

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry historically shipped bulk APIs from foreign production sites to the United States before formulating into dosed products. After the WTO agreement, it became viable to import more finished products duty-free. Over the years, a failure to add more APIs to the duty-free list reinforced this trend. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also allows firms to import formulated products prior to receiving marketing approval to prepare for a new product launch but does not allow bulk API importation before market approval.

The urgency to accrue adequate supplies and treatments for COVID-19 has reignited a debate on U.S. over-reliance on China and India for antibiotics, among other medicines. What if factories must close? What if China and India withhold supplies? If raw materials and ingredients are derived in those countries, would the United States be able to ramp up domestic production? The White House is considering incentives and Buy America government procurement requirements to stimulate demand for U.S. production and in the meanwhile has temporarily reduced tariffs on medical supplies such as disposable gloves, face masks and other common hospital items from China.

20 Countries Ban Medical Exports

A Cure Worse Than the Disease

Removing barriers to trade in essential products is a healthier approach than imposing restrictions that could exacerbate potential shortages.

Nonetheless, some 20 countries have announced a ban on the export of medical gear – masks, gloves, and protective suits worn by medical professionals. They include Germany, France, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Thailand and Kazakhstan.

Governments generally do maintain national stocks of critical items to enable manufacturers to ramp up production in cases of health emergencies or address unexpected gaps in their supply chains. But when major producers withhold global supply, importing countries face shortages and higher prices. Dangerously, India’s trade restrictions go beyond medical gear to restrict export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients. India, however, relies heavily on APIs imported from China for their medicines, much of it originating from factories in Hubei province where the outbreak emerged.

Bans tend to beget more bans, potentially wreaking havoc on pharmaceutical and medical product supply chains, making it more difficult for healthcare workers to stem spread of the virus. Poorer countries with already fragile and underfunded healthcare systems are left in an even more vulnerable position.

A Test for Public-Private Collaboration

Instead of export restrictions, governments can expedite purchase orders and otherwise support industry efforts to ramp up production for domestic and global use. Most global manufacturers are operating at several times their usual capacity since the initial outbreak in China. Private labs are utilizing high-throughput platforms to conduct more tests faster but require trade in the chemical reagents needed to start up and run the tests.

Biopharmaceutical firms are applying their scientific expertise to accelerate the development of a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19. They are reviewing their research portfolios, investigating previously approved medicines that have potential to treat the virus, and donating approved investigational medicines to the global research effort. Internationally, scientists are collaborating through a Norway-based nonprofit called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations on COVID-19 vaccine development. They know that the more options, the better – most drug candidates will not get through all three phases of clinical trials.

Recovery

Epidemic diseases evolve and they do not respect borders. Treating them, as well as the myriad chronic diseases and other ailments that affect us more routinely, requires new and adapted medical technologies arising from innovation made widely available through trade.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with providing incentives to encourage domestic production, it should not come at the expense of free trade in health-related products. Tariffs should be eliminated on life-saving medicines and their ingredients. Governments must impose restrictions on exports temporarily and only when absolutely necessary. In this way, openness in trade will help promote the recovery of both our health and our economies.

Many thanks to economist and contributor Alice Calder for running all the trade numbers in this article. Full data tables may be accessed here.

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

Alice Calder

Alice Calder received her MA in Applied Economics at GMU. Originally from the UK, where she received her BA in Philosophy and Political Economy from the University of Exeter, living and working internationally sparked her interest in trade issues as well as the intersection of economics and culture.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

slavery

“Free” Trade and Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

It’s more common than you might think. Seeking a means to provide for themselves and their families, millions of people routinely put their fate in the hands of brokers who promise factory, fishing, farming, hospitality or healthcare jobs overseas. They leave their country, greeted in a strange land not by honest employers but by traffickers. They are now bonded laborers who are told they must work to pay off their debt under threat of violence. Sometimes that “work” is commercial sex. Against their will, by force, fraud or coercion, they have become slaves.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million men, women and children are victims of forced labor at any point in time. Although a person does not need to be physically transported to be subject to slavery, 29 percent of victims end up in forced labor after moving across international borders.

$150 Billion in Illicit Profits – Every Year

In small numbers, we should be concerned. But this is no small problem. According to the Alliance to End Slavery and Human Trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, generating an estimated $150 billion in illicit profits annually.

In the United States, January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To recognize the 20th anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), the White House held a Summit on Human Trafficking on January 31.

The summit culminated in the signing of an executive order to improve prevention, increase prosecutions, and strengthen protections for victims in the United States, recognizing that “millions of individuals are trafficked around the world each year — including into…the United States.”

To combat it requires a comprehensive government effort involving labor and criminal enforcement, public services to aid victims, counter-trafficking policies and programming in overseas assistance, intelligence and diplomatic coordination – and trade policy.

Human Trafficking Across Borders Stat

Trade Policy and Trafficking

As far back as the Tariff Act of 1930, the United States prohibits the importation of foreign goods made by means of slave labor. But more recently, Congress has debated whether the United States should grant trading privileges to governments that do not respect human rights or fail to combat trafficking. That question featured in the annual debate over whether to grant “most favored nation” trading status to China before it entered the WTO. It arose again when some Members of Congress questioned whether Malaysia should be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

In January 2018, Senators Menendez and Portman introduced the Anti-Trafficking Act to suspend countries from U.S. trade preference programs for one year for failing to address trafficking.

The U.S. State Department spearheads an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to assess the extent to which our and other governments are making efforts to meet minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking. On that basis, countries are placed into one of three tiers or on a watch list. “Tier 1” countries are deemed compliant with minimum standards under TVPA for making “serious and sustained efforts” to eliminate human trafficking.

On the other end of the spectrum, governments on “Tier 3” do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. A country in Tier 3 may be restricted from receiving certain U.S. foreign aid, though the president may issue a partial or full waiver, particularly if withholding such assistance would cause adverse effects to vulnerable populations. The concept of withholding benefits to Tier 3 countries has also been applied to trade.

A “Principal” Trade Negotiating Objective

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 as amended (the legislation that gives the executive branch its trade negotiating mandate and authority) added a principal trade negotiating objective on human rights. The expedited voting procedures afforded to trade deals under the Act can be conditioned on progress toward achieving this objective.

Principal negotiating objective smaller font

More powerful a lever, the Act explicitly prohibits applying so-called “fast track” voting on trade agreements with countries ranked on Tier 3 of the TIP Report.

Tier 3 exception smaller font

However, the Act was amended to allow the President to submit a waiver to Congress. The waiver is not meant to rest its case on new, untested commitments. Rather, it should describe “concrete steps” that country has taken to implement recommendations in the TIP report and should include supporting documentation. To date, no country has been denied a trade deal on this basis.

Free Trade Begins with Free

Trafficking in humans is an abomination and the worst form of illicit trade. Some policymakers believe that trading with the United States is a powerful incentive to government action and is therefore an effective tool to deploy as a punishment or carrot to improve human rights. Others argue that engagement in trade opportunities should not be withheld, lest it hold back economic progress in places and for people who need it the most.

Human rights as customary international law came into being and “grew up” alongside the international trade regime after WWII. The primacy of human rights over trade liberalization obligations is consistent with trade law itself, which explicitly provides exceptions where necessary to protect human life.

Wherever the debate comes out on how to use trade agreements and policies to promote human rights, we can all agree that free trade begins with free. The human right to be free will always come prior to free trade.

Dive Deeper: Trafficking in Persons Report 2019

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

SHOULD WOMEN HAVE THEIR OWN PROVISIONS IN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS?

The topic of women’s participation in international trade has been lightly touched in trade agreements. It shows up in aspirational language in a preamble, through a mention in a chapter on cross-cutting issues like labor, or in a non-binding side agreement accompanying the main text of an agreement. Canada introduced a standalone trade and gender chapter in its updated trade agreement with Chile, and is on a mission to spark a global conversation about whether and how trade and gender issues should be addressed in trade agreements.

As rallying calls of “Trade for All” and economic inclusion reverberate throughout national trade agendas, international forums, and across trade negotiation tables, here’s a closer look at trade and gender issues, how trade agreements of the past have addressed them, and how a new generation of trade and gender chapters aim to change the narrative.

In Developing Countries, Just One In Five Exporting Firms Led by Women

Despite comprising half of the global population, women generate just 37 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and run only one-third of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Women participation in the economies of developing countries is typically lower than average, with female business ownership dipping as low as three to six percent in some countries.

Women in developing countries are often concentrated in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and in export-oriented sectors like apparel, textiles and electronics manufacturing. Women-owned businesses in developing countries are less likely to export than their male counterparts, however. In a 2015 survey of 20 developing countries, the International Trade Centre found that just one in five exporting firms was led by women entrepreneurs.

Exporting is a powerful tool for women to grow their businesses by expanding into new markets. The United States is an example of how exporting can support the success of women-owned businesses. According to the International Trade Centre report, women-owned businesses in the United States that export tend to pay more, are more productive, hire more employees, and record higher than average sales than those who do not export.

U.S. women-owned businesses that export

It’s Not Just a Paperwork Issue

Trading across borders can be challenging for women, especially those who run small-scale firms in developing countries. A recent World Bank article highlights some of the key challenges women traders face – from corruption to harassment, cultural and legal barriers, and even just the amount of time they’re able to dedicate to their businesses while also expected to take care of their families. A female trader in Vietnam said it best, “In Vietnam, women have to do double the work. We manage our business and we take care of our families. We have to arrange time to do cross-border trade.”

Support for empowering women through trade is growing in international forums as of late. In December 2017, 118 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) endorsed the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. The goal is to increase women’s participation in trade and remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Members agreed to investigate ways to better tackle barriers and lack of access to trade financing, as well as collecting better gender-disaggregated economic data.

Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum have also created an agenda on greater inclusion of women in the regional economy through its Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy, an initiative promoted by the United States during its host year in 2011. The forum is working to address access to capital, access to markets, support for skills development, advance women into leadership roles in business, government, community and political levels, and to ensure that women don’t get left behind in scientific, innovation, and technology sectors. Without addressing these barriers, women would be less apt to take advantage of economic opportunities created by trade agreements.

How Have Trade Agreements Addressed Trade and Gender in the Past?

While the addition of specific chapters on trade and gender in trade agreements is a relatively new approach, the inclusion of gender-related provisions in regional trade agreements is not a recent phenomenon.

According to a 2018 WTO study, the number of gender-related provisions in RTAs has steadily increased since 1957. As of 2018, 74 regional trade agreements contained at least one gender-related provision. These provisions have evolved and changed significantly over the years. The study found that most gender-related provisions were couched in “best endeavor” language and focus on cooperation on gender and gender-related issues, like labor, health and social policy.

RTAs with gender provisions

 

What Do New “Gender Chapters” in Trade Agreements Include?

Chile and Uruguay were the first two countries to introduce a standalone chapter on trade and gender in a bilateral agreement in 2016. This was followed by the trade and gender chapter in the updated Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) signed in 2017.

The trade and gender chapter in the CCFTA contains four key components:

Acknowledgement of the importance of incorporating a gender perspective into economic and trade issues to ensure that economic growth is inclusive.

Reaffirmation of commitments to implement UN conventions against gender discrimination.

Cooperative activities and capacity building such as the promotion of access to financing and female entrepreneurship, the development of women’s networks, and greater participation by women in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors.

Establishment of a committee to oversee cooperation activities, review operations of the trade and gender chapter, report on the implementation of activities, and monitor other chapters for their effects on gender.

What Impact Might These Provisions Have?

The modernized CCFTA only recently went into force in February 2019, so it’s too soon to assess what impact the new trade and gender chapter will have for women in both countries. In a policy paper, UNCTAD called the CCFTA trade and gender chapter a “welcome step” but also said it remained a “light component” considering milestones and specific goals were not included, dispute-settlement mechanisms did not apply to the chapter, and harmonization of gender-related legislation between parties was not mandated.

Despite these perceived shortcomings, UNCTAD suggested the trend to include trade and gender chapters in trade agreements was positive: Raising the profile of trade and gender issues in the trade arena would encourage both civil society and the private sector to participate more broadly in the implementation of agreements, enhance cooperation on gender issues between parties to the agreements, and strengthen capacity-building between nations on barriers to women participating in the economy through trade.

Canada’s “Progressive” Push in CPTPP

Canada succeeded in adding trade and gender chapters to some of its recent bilateral agreements, but has faced resistance at the regional level. Although the actual words “comprehensive” and “progressive” were added in front of the TPP title, the CPTPP does not contain a trade and gender chapter. Instead, it contains non-binding language in the preamble reaffirming the importance of gender equality for all CPTPP members. It also includes provisions in the development chapter related to women and economic growth (Article 23.4). While not directly referencing women, chapters related to SMEs and cross-border digital trade should also benefit women by expanding trade in these areas.

Adding a new trade and gender chapter was included among Canada’s core negotiating objectives at the onset of NAFTA renegotiations with the United States and Mexico. This new chapter ultimately did not make the cut in the new United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA). The new USMCA agreement does contain provisions related to gender, however, including in the labor chapter and the SMEs chapter. This is an improvement over the original NAFTA agreement, which addressed gender and trade in a side accord rather than in the main text of the agreement.

Part of the argument against gender-specific provisions is that any benefits of a trade agreement should be theoretically gender-neutral. For example, provisions that help facilitate trade by small- and medium-sized enterprises should help female business owners the same. But just as there are few gender disaggregated trade data, there’s still much to be learned about how trade reforms benefit women.

More Pieces of the Puzzle

While there’s been considerable buzz around the inclusion of new trade and gender chapters in FTAs, UNCTAD experts say they are really just one piece of the puzzle. In order to yield the best results, trade and gender chapters need to be partnered with gender-related assessments of trade measures prior to the agreement to be most effective later on.

UNCTAD developed a Trade and Gender Toolbox as a framework to help countries evaluate the impact of trade reforms on women and gender inequalities before implementing them. These assessments can help countries rethink planned trade reforms or identify the need for accompanying measures to offset negative impacts on at-risk groups, like women. APEC has taken a pragmatic approach, training women to advance in traditionally male-dominated industries like energy and mining, studying successful women entrepreneurs in the ICT sector, sharing information on investing in women entrepreneurs, and even taking on specific individual goals for increasing women in private and public leadership roles. APEC is also working in critical areas such as education, sexual harassment, health, and social expectations for women as caregivers – areas a trade agreement would not be expected to address.

As more countries take up the mantle of “Trade for All”– not just Canada, but also the European Union, Chile, New Zealand and others — we will continue to see trade and gender chapters in new RTAs evolve and more initiatives to share and implement best policy practices. Yet, it remains to be seen if this “next generation language” in FTAs will make a tangible difference for the hard-working women trading around the world.

Lauren Kyger

Lauren Kyger is Associate Editor for TradeVistas. Prior to joining TradeVistas, she was a Research Associate at the Hinrich Foundation focused on international trade issues. She is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader Scholar alumna, earning her Master’s degree in Global Business Journalism from Tsinghua University in Beijing. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Used with permission.

APEC: TRADE ACCELERATOR IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC & BEYOND

Menu of Options to Grow Trade

Countries utilize multiple platforms to open markets, set standards or other rules of trade, and resolve disputes. Progress in reducing barriers to trade and facilitating the flows of goods and services may be an outcome of negotiated free trade agreements between two or more countries or result from legally binding instruments agreed to in multilateral fora like the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In contrast, decisions in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, a grouping of 21 economies that border the Pacific Ocean, are reached by consensus but undertaken on a voluntary basis. This format is credited with enabling members to “incubate” content for new trade negotiations and to work collaboratively on pragmatic regulatory and policy approaches to common challenges.

The APEC forum culminates each fall in a meeting of the 21 leaders, a gathering many associate with the annual “silly shirts” photo of top officials genially wearing the national garb of the host economy, rather than their typical business suit. However, the work of APEC goes on for many months before this fashion summitry takes center stage to solidify each member’s commitments.

This article introduces this cooperative, regional forum; highlights the priority focus areas set out by this year’s APEC host, Chile; and shines a spotlight on one such area – digital trade – as a case study into how APEC serves as a building block in the iterative process of co-creating norms for trade.

Spotlight on APEC

The 21 members of APEC, which includes economies as diverse as the United States and Papua New Guinea (last year’s APEC host), are home to almost three billion people and represent close to half of world trade.

When the organization formed in 1989, APEC had Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States as founding members. China; Hong Kong, China; and Chinese Taipei joined in 1991. Mexico and Papua New Guinea acceded in 1993, and Chile joined in 1994. In 1998, the addition of Peru, Russia, and Vietnam brought the organization to its current membership level.

APEC Members

Every year one of the 21 APEC member economies serves as the APEC Chair. Over the course of a year and typically in multiple cities, the Chair hosts a series of senior officials’ meetings, ministerial meetings, and a Leaders meeting. Ministerial meetings include gatherings of Trade and Foreign Ministers from each of the economies, as well as sectoral ministers overseeing other key areas, including energy, finance, and education. The host economy also welcomes the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), up to three senior business leaders per economy, appointed by their governments, who provide private sector input into the APEC process.

Between 1989-1992, APEC dialogues were held at the senior official and minister level. In 1993, former U.S. President Bill Clinton began the practice of an annual leader meeting when he hosted an APEC meeting in Seattle. The following year, APEC leaders made a commitment to jointly work toward free and open trade in the Asia-Pacific by 2020. This commitment is known as the Bogor Goals for the Indonesian city where APEC leaders met in 1994.

A defining feature of APEC is that members voluntarily take actions to reduce barriers to trade and investment without a requirement to make legally binding obligations. Beyond a core focus on trade and investment liberalization, APEC also promotes business facilitation, with the goal of taking time, cost, and uncertainty out of doing business across the region, as well as technical cooperation, to boost the technical capacity of APEC’s less developed members to drive secure and sustainable economic growth.

From Idea to Fruition

Notable accomplishments within APEC include its work on environmental goods, where members have undertaken tariff reductions on a list of 54 environmentally friendly goods. This tariff-cutting effort laid the groundwork for ongoing negotiations at the WTO on an Environmental Goods Agreement with expanded product coverage.

Another key APEC deliverable has been the APEC Privacy Framework, which established principles and implementation guidelines for privacy protection, and which underpins the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. Currently, eight APEC members—Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore and the United States—participate in the CBPR system.

APEC also delighted many travelers on the APEC circuit with the creation of the APEC Business Travel Card, which allows cardholders visa-free access to APEC economies for up to 90 days and special APEC fast lanes in the major airports of APEC members. According to the 2018 report of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment to Ministers, as of the end of June 2018, over 278,000 cards had been issued.

Onward to Santiago

Like a Chilean fine wine, the business travel card is something nice to have in hand given the over 200 working group meetings, workshops, ministerial, academic, and business meetings taking place over Chile’s APEC year. Chile’s host year will culminate in the summit of the 21 APEC leaders in November in Santiago. As the host economy, Chile has identified four priority areas on which it seeks concrete deliverables:

Digital Society, an initiative encompassing efforts to develop cross-border digital trade standards and make needed changes to education and labor systems;

Integration 4.0, which seeks to tackle some of the newer sources of trade frictions and enhance connectivity through customs coordination and border automation;

Women, Small and Medium Enterprises and Inclusive Growth, an agenda designed to increase women’s participation in the economy and to enhance the ability of small and medium-sized business to realize the benefits of trade in the region, including in the area of digital trade; and

Sustainable Growth, which includes initiatives to protect the marine ecosystem and promote cooperation on both energy and smart cities.

Division of Labor on Digital Trade Rules

Chile’s focus on the digital economy reflects the priority that APEC leaders have increasingly placed on promoting sound policies to govern digital trade in the Asia-Pacific region. The spotlight on digital policy is also a good case study in the iterative way global trade norms are shaped and how an organization like APEC both influences and is influenced by parallel policymaking efforts.

APEC prides itself on its role as an incubator of ideas and driver of initiatives in emerging areas of trade that matter not only to the Asia-Pacific region, but also globally.

Dating back to its 1998 APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce, which defined principles for the development of e-commerce in the region, APEC members have recognized that without a framework to govern the surge in digitally enabled trade, the full potential of digital technologies may not be realized. They also understood the challenges associated with designing regulatory frameworks that encourage growth while protecting privacy and security, particularly given differing domestic regulatory approaches on key issues like treatment of data. In its work on the various building blocks for digital trade – from cross-border privacy rules to trade facilitation and services liberalization – APEC has engaged multiple outside organizations, including the International Chamber of Commerce, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFAT), facilitating mutually beneficial idea exchange.

In 2016, 12 APEC economies signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP (the United States later withdrew). The TPP’s e-commerce chapter covered a range of traditional and emerging issues, including customs duties, electronic authorization and signatures, cross-border data flows, source code, cybersecurity, and privacy protections. Initiatives like the APEC Privacy Framework inspired certain TPP provisions but, unlike the APEC framework, what is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a binding agreement with enforcement provisions. The reforms required by the agreement, including prohibitions on data localization and protections for the movement of data, will set a new bar as CPTPP potentially expands to new members and as new trade agreements are forged.

For example, in mid-May, on the sidelines of this year’s APEC meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade, Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry, and New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth announced the start of negotiations towards a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement. The officials announced an intent to build on the CPTPP e-commerce chapter, but also look at emerging areas like digital identity and artificial intelligence. Any agreement reached between Chile, New Zealand and Singapore will be open for accession by other WTO members who can meet the high-quality standards to be established in the agreement.

Underscoring the iterative nature of trade policy building, the three APEC and CPTPP members indicated that their work would build on the work underway within APEC, the OECD, and other international forums; generate ideas for use by countries negotiating free trade agreements; and complement current WTO negotiations on e-commerce. In the latter talks, 76 WTO members (including all APEC members except Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam) are working to create multilateral rules governing electronic transactions.

Family Photos APEC

Culture and Consensus

APEC members leverage their APEC host year to drive progress on their national trade priorities in the spirit of collaboration and consensus. The various APEC meetings throughout the year also provide an opportunity to showcase the member’s unique achievements before large audiences of distinguished visitors, while also showing off the cities where the meetings take place. This year, for example, Chile will welcome more than 15,000 representatives of member economies, APEC observers, business leaders, and international press in Viña del Mar, Puerto Varas, and Santiago.

Shining a spotlight on the unique cultural offerings of a host economy – such as the Royal Barge Procession for APEC leaders on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok in 2003 or China’s grand 2014 APEC welcome ceremony with light shows, singing, and dancing – is also a time-honored tradition. Unfortunately, the infamous “silly-shirted” photos tradition may be wavering. The last time the United States hosted APEC in 2011 in Hawaii, President Obama found APEC-like consensus agreement to nix the collective donning of aloha shirts and grass skirts, quipping, “I didn’t hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one. I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break.”

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Leslie Griffin is Principal of Boston-based Allinea LLC. She was previously Senior Vice President for International Public Policy for UPS and is a past president of the Association of Women in International Trade in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Used with permission.

Senators Urge FTA Investment Protections Purged

Washington, D.C. – Five Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee have written to the White House urging President Barack Obama to exclude foreign investment protections from major free trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The five argue that such protections “might undermine buffers against future financial crises” and damage public support for future free trade deals.

The House Ways & means Committee has Congressional jurisdiction over trade issues.

Foreign investment protection is hot-button topic in the TTIP trade deal, prompting the European Union to call a halt to talks on the investment-related components of the proposed pact while the bloc’s 28 members consult “more widely.”

The letter follows a similar letter sent last week by three U.S. senators to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman asking him not to include investment protection rules in the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“The consequence would be to strip our regulators of the tools they need to prevent the next crisis,” said the letter, which also cautioned against rules “limiting the use of capital controls or allowing open access for risky financial products.”

Among the letter’s signatories was 2016 presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who said such rules would expose “critical” U.S. financial regulations to challenge and dissuade policymakers from writing rules that impact foreign banks.

In response, a spokesman for the USTR said the TPP “would in no way limit the ability of governments to put in place strong consumer protections or to regulate financial markets” and would include “specific provisions protecting regulation.”

12/29/2014

US High Tech Trade Tops $1 Trillion: White Paper

Los Angeles, CA – The trade in US-produced technology goods and services currently tops more than $1 trillion, according to a new industry white paper published by the TechAmerica Foundation (TAF).

Tech imports totaled $351 billion compared to $205 billion in exports in 2013, while tech service exports exceeded imports $303 billion to $161 billion in imports in 2011, the most recent year complete data are available, the group said.

Many of the goods imported into the US “are part of a global supply chain, where US multinational companies create and design tech products in the US and produce the finalized product overseas,” according to the paper.

In these cases, “the bulk of the profit from the products is accrued to the US firm. Often the importation of a technology good represents an ‘intra-company’ transfer as US firms brings their products into the United States for sale from their overseas production facilities,” it added.

The US currently has a tech trade surplus of nearly $5 billion when both tech goods and services are combined, with $501 billion in exports compared with $496 billion in imports.  Goods exports and imports have been fairly flat for the last three years after rebounding as a result of the 2009 global market crash.

“The largest destinations for tech goods go to our closest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, which is a testament to the importance of free trade agreements to the American technology industry,” said Burak Guvensoylar, manager of government affairs at the TAF.

The US has free trade agreements with 20 countries, and is looking to create two new large scale agreements – the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).

These new agreements, in addition to the Trade in Services Agreement, and the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, could expand US free trade markets to 53 countries, “creating significant opportunities for US technology companies” by “increasing market access, eliminating tariffs, strengthening intellectual property rights, and ensuring the movement of data across the globe,” said Guvensoylar.

Telecommunications, Texas Lead the Way

According to the white paper , the US telecommunications sector, in particular, feeds the rate of tech goods and services exports, noted by the 9 percent increase in telecommunications services from 2011-2012 and the 6.6 percent increase in communications goods from 2012-2013.

Other key tech services include systems design, software, research and development, testing, and Internet services such as cloud computing and mobility strategy, it said.

From a state-by-state perspective, Texas continued to build on its status as the leading state by tech goods exports, growing from $45.1 billion in 2012 to $48.2 billion in 2013, a 6.7 percent growth rate, compared to a national growth rate of 0.8 percent.

California is a close second to Texas in revenue of exports, but the state saw a 5.1 percent decline in year-to-year exports. Texas and California combine to account for 44 percent of the country’s overall volume of tech good exports.

The TechAmerica Foundation is a non-profit technology industry research group headquartered in Washington, DC.

07/21/2014