A recent meeting of countries participating in a new Western Hemisphere trade and economic cooperation initiative offered few details about what it will include and when it might be implemented.

The Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity was first announced nearly a year ago but has been largely moribund since as the Biden administration has largely focused on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. With IPEF talks now possibly nearing conclusion, the U.S. hosted an inaugural summit of APEP leaders Nov. 3 in an apparent effort to get the initiative moving.

A White House fact sheet said the leaders – representing Barbados, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and the U.S. – directed their ministers to develop and implement a focused set of initiatives and actions in three areas: trade, foreign affairs, and finance.

On trade, leaders urged “inclusive and sustainable approaches to trade and investment that will support regional sustainable development and resilient supply chains for goods and services, enhance a predictable and transparent regulatory environment that can boost trade flows, and remove barriers to greater economic integration among our countries.” Efforts will focus first on regional implementation of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Facilitation as well as digitization of customs mechanisms.

On foreign affairs, ministers were directed to prioritize collaborative initiatives aimed at fostering inclusive growth; advance projects and initiatives that will help improve access to healthcare, potable water, clean energy, food, and nutritional security as well as support smart agriculture and protect against climate change; and explore ways to deepen existing commitments to anti-corruption and transparency efforts. On finance, ministers were asked to accelerate efforts to increase the quality and quantity of financing for the Americas and to advance the evolution of multilateral development banks to better address national and cross-border development challenges.

A senior Biden administration official added that supply chain competitiveness “is going to be one of the most important policy areas” that APEP addresses and “will be cross-cutting on those three tracks.” The official said participants will initially focus these efforts on clean energy, semiconductors, and medical supplies.

However, none of these efforts have formally begun yet and it appears they could take some time. The White House noted that a mechanism for consultations must still be established (meaning it is unclear when actual negotiations might begin), that ministers plan to meet annually “to ensure progress,” and that leaders will meet every two years “to update our collective priorities.”

In the meantime, the U.S. announced a number of efforts in support of APEP, including a new investment platform to channel billions of dollars in financing to “help build the modern ports, clean energy grids, and digital infrastructure necessary for a competitive and resilient economy.” President Biden said this initiative aims to “make sure that our closest neighbors know they have a real choice between debt-trap diplomacy,” an obvious reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and “high-quality transparent approaches to infrastructure and to development.”

For more information on APEP and how your company can ensure its priorities are addressed, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson at (202) 730-4956 or via email.

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