A proposed U.S.-Europe free-trade pact is unlikely to affect Washington’s efforts to negotiate a similar agreement with Asia-Pacific nations, a senior US trade official said today.
Jose Fernandez, the U.S.- assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said the administration of President Barack Obama can negotiate with both regions simultaneously.
“The term that we use in the United States is that we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Fernandez said in a telephone news conference from Singapore with journalists in various Asia Pacific cities, accordign to Agence-France Presse reports.
The United States and 10 other nations are negotiating a sweeping trade accord called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Obama has cast as a centerpiece of Washington’s renewed engagement in Asia.
But in a move to further strengthen links with Europe, Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month that Washington will also open talks with the continent for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
U.S.-Europe trade totaled $646 billion last year, according to U.S.- government figures.
“We are very keen to complete the TPP this year,” Fernandez said, declining to give details about the exact stage of the negotiations.
“At the same time we are prepared to begin conversations… with the EU. That’s not going to be a problem,” he added.
“We are excited, we’re delighted to be able to have such an ambitious trade agreement. Once these two agreements are complete, just think of what the free trade picture will look like in the future.” Although only 11 nations are currently involved in the TPP talks, it is designed to accept more members in the future who agree to its standards on trade, investment, labour rights and the environment.
Some civic groups have voiced concern about the lack of details from the TPP talks, which involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Cuts won’t affect
The Obama administration policy of shifting its security focus to the Asia-Pacific region will remain on track despite drastic U.S. budget cuts looming this week, Reuters reported said by Mark Lippert, assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific affairs, as Washington braced for $85 billion in government-wide budget cuts, known as a sequester, starting on tomorrow.