U.S. Chamber’s Brilliant Speaks on Importance of U.S. Engagement with Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, China

Monday, March 17, 2014 - 8:30am

Addresses U.S.-China Relations, TPP and TPA

HONG KONG—U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant delivered a major policy address on U.S. economic engagement with the Asia-Pacific region to the American Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong (AmCham Hong Kong) and Hong Kong Trade Development Council today. Brilliant stressed that the U.S. business community is hopeful regarding China’s success in implementing ambitious reforms that could create a decisive role for market forces across the economy, foster more sustainable and higher quality growth, and expand commercial opportunities for U.S. companies in the market. He also discussed the U.S. Chamber’s trade agenda and strong support for Trade Promotion Authority legislation in the U.S. Congress and conclusion of negotiations for a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

“The good news is that China’s leadership recognizes the economic challenges before it and, for the first time in many years, seems committed to pursuing fundamental structural economic reforms—as opposed to tweaks to the current system—to address them,” Brilliant said. “While anticipation for reform increases, American businesses report few improvements in the business climate over the last year, and some areas of noteworthy deterioration such as in the area of antitrust enforcement. However, many of our companies remain optimistic that the U.S. and China will intensify negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty, which could foster significant positive changes to the commercial environment.

In his speech, Brilliant suggested three additional steps for improvement. First, China should join soon the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement on terms consistent with those of other Agreement signatories. Second, China should agree in advance of the May Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Trade Ministers’ meeting in Qingdao, China to expand the WTO Information Technology Agreement on ambitious terms. Third, China should support its expression of interest in joining the Trade in Services Agreement, supported by the U.S. Chamber, with concrete steps that would ensure compliance with existing obligations and advance services liberalization in its market, including in areas like electronic payment, express delivery, and value-added telecommunications services.  Forward-leaning steps in these areas would demonstrate a clear commitment to an ambitious outcome in the negotiations.

“This is also a critical time for the U.S. trade agenda,” Brilliant added. “The next step is progress on the major trade talks across the Pacific – the TPP.  The negotiations have entered the overtime period, but a concluded agreement is within sight.  It is now a question of political courage, particularly in Japan. The reality is that every TPP country, including the U.S., has products that are highly sensitive. Japan has been a constructive partner in the rules areas of the TPP negotiations, but in market access, the other critical part of the negotiations, Japan has not been forthcoming with an acceptable offer. The bottom line is that ‘comprehensive access’ is a core principle of this agreement. No country will get an exemption.

“But the first step for the United States is TPA. While a good bipartisan bill was introduced in January in the U.S. Congress, we need President Obama to lead the way on the tough fight on TPA. While the U.S. business community continues to make the case for TPA, we’re calling for President Obama to up his game.”

The full text of his remarks is available here.

International trade and investment is a key component of the Chamber’s 2014 American Jobs, Growth, and Opportunity Agenda, an ambitious plan to generate stronger economic growth, create jobs, and expand opportunity for all Americans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. Its International Affairs division includes more than 50 regional and policy experts and 25 country- and region-specific business councils and initiatives. The U.S. Chamber also works closely with 116 American Chambers of Commerce abroad.