Background

Facilitating trade and improving supply chain resilience will be among the primary focuses of negotiations to establish the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Those were among the numerous negotiating objectives announced at a Sept. 8-9 ministerial meeting of the 14 current IPEF participants (Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the U.S., and Vietnam).

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the IPEF aims to be “a modern economic arrangement” that “delivers broad-based economic connectivity and benefits our workers, combats climate change, builds resilient supply chains and levels the playing field for our companies.” The ministerial meeting resulted in statements on each of IPEF’s four pillars (trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy) that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said “set out the path ahead and enable us to move into a new and more concrete phase of work.” Tai said participants next intend to “move toward negotiations … with the first round of discussions taking place after this ministerial.”

Highlights of the trade and supply chain objectives include the following.

Trade

- accelerated implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation, facilitating trade through simplified customs procedures and clearance while maintaining customs control, digitalizing trade facilitation measures, promoting electronic processing of customs data and documentation, responsible rules on the efficient and trustworthy handling of trader data

- facilitating digital trade through (1) trusted and secure cross-border data flows, (2) inclusive, sustainable growth of the digital economy, and (3) the responsible development and use of emerging technologies

- enhancing food and agricultural supply chain resilience and connectivity, avoiding unjustified measures that prohibit or restrict food and agricultural imports and exports, and promoting the use of digital and other tools to reduce compliance costs in international food supply chains

- adopting and enforcing national laws based on internationally-recognized labor rights and encouraging corporate accountability in cases of national labor law violations

- combatting wildlife trafficking and illegal logging and associated trade, facilitating trade and investment in relevant clean technologies and environmental goods and services, green investment and finance, circular economy approaches, promoting an environmentally sustainable digital economy, and responsible business conduct

- promoting, supporting, and improving transparency in rulemaking

- adopting or maintaining competition and consumer protection laws to ensure open, fair, transparent, and competitive markets

- encouraging greater participation of indigenous peoples, minorities, women, people with disabilities, rural populations, and local communities in international trade and investment

Supply Chains

- establishing criteria to identify sectors critical to national security, public health and safety, and economic resilience, establishing criteria to identify key goods within those sectors, and developing a process to identify related raw material inputs, manufacturing or processing capabilities, logistics facilitation, and storage needs

- identifying sole sources or chokepoints within supply chains, strengthening industries and supporting trade and investment in critical sectors, supporting investment in supply chain resilience strategies, promoting a diversity of sources across the region, and strengthening existing and developing potential suppliers

- establishing a mechanism for government-to-government coordination on supply chain vulnerabilities and disruptions, including response measures that would facilitate the efficient movement of goods and related essential services in critical sectors

- collecting and utilizing relevant data on supply chain logistics, seeking to understand vulnerabilities, improving related infrastructure, maintaining border and transport links, developing common frameworks to improve supply chain resilience, and addressing existing or potential bottlenecks

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

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