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US to host virtual meeting on Tuesday of Indo-Pacific trade, economic ministers

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 The United States will host a virtual meeting on Tuesday of officials representing the 14 countries that have joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, as Washington seeks to expand its engagement with Asia.

The ministerial meeting will be hosted by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, their offices announced in a statement on Sunday.

President Joe Biden, who launched the IPEF in May on a trip to Tokyo, wants to use it as a way to raise environmental, labor and other standards across Asia.

Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit a multinational trans-Pacific trade agreement, leaving the field open to China to expand its influence.

In addition to the United States, the IPEF members comprise Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Topics for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting include trade, supply chains, clean energy, infrastructure, taxes and combating corruption, the statement said.

Meanwhile, The United States is putting pressure on Mexico over energy policies that Washington says unfairly favor Mexico’s state-owned electricity and oil companies over American competitors and clean-energy suppliers.

The U.S. is demanding talks to resolve the dispute, starting a process Wednesday that could end in trade sanctions against Mexico.

“We have repeatedly expressed serious concerns about a series of changes in Mexico’s energy policies and their consistency with Mexico’s commitments,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement. She said “U.S. companies continue to face unfair treatment in Mexico.”

Mexico acknowledged Wednesday it had received a similar request for consultations from Canada. Mexico’s Economy Department said because the Canadian request “has certain elements in common” with the U.S. request, Mexico “will seek to maintain a coordinated process with both trading partners.”

Among the specific issues in dispute is an amendment to Mexican law last year that the United States says gives an unfair edge to electricity produced by Mexico’s state-owned utility Federal Electricity Commission over energy from private companies and over cleaner sources such as wind and solar.

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