Countries negotiating the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework recently held a third round of negotiations ahead of a ministerial meeting that will take stock of the progress made in the talks so far.

IPEF was launched a year ago with the aim of strengthening U.S. ties to the region and creating “a stronger, fairer, more resilient economy for families, workers, and businesses.” Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are the current participants, and each of them except India has pledged to take part in all the initiative’s four pillars: trade (which India opted out of), supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the third round of negotiations held May 8-15 in Singapore featured in-depth discussions and “strong progress on a wide range of issues” across all four pillars. Next up is a meeting scheduled for May 27 in Detroit at which ministers will review progress made to date and provide further direction to negotiators “as they work to make concrete progress as quickly as possible.”

Prior to the latest talks USTR posted summaries of negotiating texts tabled at the previous round on the issues of digital trade, labor, environment, technical assistance, and inclusivity. These texts include provisions addressing the following issues.

- avoiding unfair trade practices while enabling participants to address legitimate public policy objectives in the digital trade area

- addressing forced labor in supply chains

- committing participants to (1) not weaken or reduce the protections afforded in domestic environmental laws to attract trade or investment and (2) strive to ensure they provide high levels of environmental protection and continue to improve these levels

- including elements related to climate and trade such as more resource efficient and circular economies, digital economy and environmental sustainability, renewable energy and clean energy technologies, and sustainable finance

- promoting trust in the digital economy, including data protection, consumer protection, and artificial intelligence

- ensuring an effective legal framework for electronic transactions that is consistent with international best practices

- promoting the resilience and security of the infrastructure that underlies the Internet

- requiring participants to adopt and maintain internationally-recognized labor rights in their labor laws

- promoting compliance with labor laws through commitments related to non-derogation from, and the effective enforcement of, labor laws

- encouraging corporate accountability when an entity violates local labor laws

- requiring participants to effectively enforce their respective environmental laws

For more information on IPEF, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson at (202) 730-4956 or via email.

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