Remarks by Ambassador Kirk and Q & A With APEC Trade Ministers

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  First of all, let me thank all of you for your patience.  Let me especially extend my gratitude to my colleagues for what has been a very robust and engaged ministerial meeting.  Today we discussed a number of relevant and important topics to APEC’s goal of furthering our economic integration within the Asia-Pacific region.  It has been a very productive and successful ministerial meeting.

It has been my distinct honor and pleasure to host my fellow trade ministers for a second meeting as the United States host country for APEC 2011.  I must say that I could not agree more with the judgment of President Obama to bring us to his home state here in Hawaii, so I will begin by saying a warm aloha to all of you.

Of course, strong engagement in the Asia-Pacific region is a major component of the United States trade agenda, as Asia-Pacific markets are large and growing, and the region’s importance will only increase in the decades to come.  APEC — through APEC implementation of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, are pillars of U.S. strong, smart trade engagement within the region.

The United States believes very strongly in the importance and relevance of APEC, and for this reason, we have sought to ensure that our host year produces concrete deliverables that clearly benefit the entire region.  As a result of our work throughout this year, we ministers can present to the leaders meaningful steps which will strengthen regional economic integration and expand trade, including by improving supply chain performance and addressing next generation trade and investment issues.

We will also advance regulatory convergence and cooperation.  We will improve the quality of regulations and regulatory systems throughout the region.  We will increase global food security through open and transparent markets, and promote green growth, including by liberalizing trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and facilitating trade in remanufactured products, and streamlining import procedures for advance technology vehicles.

We have also successfully addressed challenges that small and medium sized businesses faced when doing business throughout the region.  We are working in APEC to break down barriers for small and medium sized exporters, as they are the overwhelming majority of exporters in each of our economies.  This includes reducing customs delays, improving access to export financing, and helping SMEs better protect their intellectual property.

The United States has a vision for the future of APEC and for trade across the region.  APEC has traditionally been a laboratory for some of the best and newest ideas in global commerce, and we believe the outcome of this year’s meeting will help keep APEC’s agenda on the cutting edge for the next 20 years.  We want to ensure that new regional agreements anticipate and address 21st century issues relevant to business within the region.

In that vein, this gathering should mark an additional milestone for a number of APEC economies.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministers expect that the leaders of the TPP countries will be able to announce the broad outlines of a high standard, ambitious 21st century trade pact.  And of course, many of us believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership can be the basis for a long term APEC goal of free trade area of the Asia Pacific.

My fellow ministers, we can be proud of the work that we have accomplished together, not only this week, but throughout this year.  We have produced a meaningful report for our leaders, and I look forward to their work this weekend to further APEC’s critical goals for trade across our vibrant region.

So as we say here in Hawaii, Mahalo for the continued commitment, dedication, and innovation that each of you have brought to APEC’s effort this year.  And now, we’ll open the floor for questions.

VOICE:  Thank you very much.  Questions may be addressed to any of the ministers.  Please note the minister you are addressing.  Please give your name and your outlet.  One question per person, and again, we’ll have a limited time for questions.  Let’s start right here in the front row.  Yes.  Either of you and then we’ll —

QUESTION:  Eric Weiner, Tokyo Broadcasting System.  Ambassador Kirk, good to see you.  You made some comments this morning, earlier today, in a statement that said, “To join the negotiations, Japan must be prepared to meet the TPP’s high standards.”  So are you skeptical that Japan will be able to meet the high standards of TPP?

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  I don’t know that I’m — well, I wouldn’t say that I was skeptical, and I want to make it absolutely clear that not only Japan, but any of the  other economies, once they decide to engage us, we would expect them to meet the standards to which we all collectively agree.  I want to make it absolutely clear, we think this is a very welcome development.

We understand that Japan has outlined the process, first of all, for their own domestic consideration.  But I think I can speak for the nine TPP members, that we would welcome the beginning of that dialogue with us as well.

And Eric, I want to explain, I don’t know that my statement at all expressed any degree of skepticism.  I would assume the prime minister understands the challenges ahead for Japan.  But for that same reason, as they expressed last year when they hosted Yokohama, Japan recognizes that one way to create wealth, to improve the livelihoods of our citizens is being part of a robust trade liberalizing agreement, and that’s what we’re working forward through the TPP.

QUESTION:  Yeah, I’m Dennis from Radio TV Show.  Hi, and I have a question for Mr. Kirk, that according to Mr. Geithner yesterday, he said that recently the United States has ratified three agreements with three countries, and according to him that the USA has made substantial progress to our TPP.  So what’s your opinion on TPP — the relationship between TPP and APEC, and when — will TPP have conflicts with existing pre-agreements, existing now in the region.  Okay, thank you.

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  Well, first of all, we are very proud of the work that the United States has demonstrated this past year in showing to the world that we are committed to further liberalization and trade, that we more importantly believe trade can be a part of a strong economic foundation for the future of America, as President Obama simply expresses that we want more of goods and products that say “made in America.  sold throughout the region.”

That’s the way to support our job growth, and for that reason, we see our work with our partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership as complementary of the work we do here in APEC.  The value of the work that my colleagues and I, who shared the stage, do in APEC though, as you know, is consensual, and our work is non-binding.

But yet, I think you would have to conclude, looking over the 20 year history of APEC, we have made an extraordinary contribution to improving the economies, the livelihoods, job creations of all the 21 economies throughout the region.  So we don’t see any contrasts or conflict with our work in TPP.

In fact, we will build on many of the cutting edge principles that were initially socialized in APEC, and include them in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which our goal is to build a next generation trade agreement.  And we believe that the work that we have done with Congress to approve, in an unprecedented manner, three trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

And I might say with more than a little bit of immodesty, that the Korea trade agreement achieved the largest single vote in the history of our United States Senate for trade, and we believe that work furthers our integration in the Asia Pacific region.  So we see all of this working together to further our economic growth and job creation initiatives.

VOICE:  This section here, second row.

QUESTION:  Hi.  It’s on.  Hi, this is a question for Minister Fast of Canada, but any of the non-TPP countries are welcome to take a crack at it.  As you know, Japan today is starting the process of joining the Partnership.  Does this change your view of it?  What are the considerations you were looking at now to possibly joining?

AMBASSADOR FAST:  Thank you for that question.  We’ve made it very clear that we will only enter into agreements and also negotiations that are in the best interests of Canada.  Obviously, we are following very closely what’s happening within the TPP.  We’re certainly interested in exploring what Canadian involvement in that process would entail.  At this point in time, we haven’t yet made that determination of whether it’s in the best interest of Canada.

VOICE:  Right here, front row, yellow tie.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Tosho Agato with the Asahi (inaudible), a Japanese newspaper.  I have a question to Mr. (inaudible).  This morning, Mr. Kirk issued a statement that the — on one hand he welcomed the Japanese decision, but on the other hand, he mentioned that Japan must be prepared to meet the higher standard of TPP, and also must be prepared to address specific U.S. concerns.  How is Japan determining to open up the market and just quickly, if perhaps just — I’d like to ask a Chinese minister as well, about his reaction to the Japanese decision, and how would this affect the Chinese position on TPP?

MR. (INAUDIBLE):  (Speaking Japanese.)

QUESTION:  My point was, how determined you are to open up the Japanese markets, such as the rice market, or those sensitive issues?

MR.  (INAUDIBLE):  (Japanese.)

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Andre Sitoy, from (inaudible), from Russia.

VOICE:  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  There’s a — I believe there’s one question for me.

VOICE:  Yes, I’m sorry, sir.  Go ahead.

VOICE:  Thank you very much for the question.  We noticed in the news released yesterday about Japan’s decision to participate in the TPP consultation.  We also noticed the position repeatedly expressed by your government, the Japanese Government, that Japan has big East Asia economy will further promote the other mechanism of regional integration, like (inaudible), which is being discussed among these three countries:  China, Korea, and Japan.  And there are some other mechanisms of a regional integration in East Asia.  Thank you very much.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Again, my name is Andre Sitovan with TASS, the Russian news agency.  I wanted to ask about this ministerial meeting, this format of APEC Corporation.  Next year, Russia will be chairing the process.  So my question to Ambassador Kirk is, what was the biggest lesson that you learned in doing this work, and what is your best advice to the Russians for their chairmanship?

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  Well, the biggest lesson I learned is to get a lot of sleep before you show up and host an APEC ministerial.  No, I have had the privilege of attending ministerials hosted by Singapore and Japan, and they could not have been more gracious in helping prepare us for the task at hand, as we will be more than happy to do so with our colleagues from Russia.

But, having had the privilege and honor of attending other fora in Russia, most recently the World Economic Forum, I have no doubt that Minister Nabuillina and the Russian administration are perfectly prepared and capable of hosting an outstanding APEC conference next year.

VOICE:  Front row here, white shirt.

QUESTION:  All right, Len Brecken, BNA, Bureau of National Affairs.  You’ve spoken about TPP.  I would like to know if there were any other non-agenda items that were addressed, anything that was perhaps topical, or any agenda items that some of the ministers would like to see in the next APEC ministerial?

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  I don’t know that I would call them non-agenda items.  I would say, you know, much of our work product carries over from year to year, for example, the Bogor goals.  We’ve had sort of a ten-year progression, in which we measure ourselves on our work on those.  In the case of this year, the United States wanted to more narrowly focus our work on three areas that we reached in consultation with our private sector.

I think one of the real values, if I can speak for, I think, all the ministers here, is we have probably as much private sector engagement through APEC as any of our fora.  And we have a very firm belief that we really want to work on measures that will strengthen trade and integration throughout the region that are driven by practical solutions that really will help businesses.

And that — our — the majority, I would say the overwhelming majority of our focus were on those three main areas that we identified in previously published fora in terms of promoting economic integration, promoting green growth, and regulatory coherence.

VOICE:  Over here, front row in the pink shirt.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Karen Snowden from Australian Radio.  A question to the Chinese minister, please.  Sir, I wonder if you would elaborate a little on how China views the TPP, and its relationship with other multilateral efforts towards a free-trade zone, and open trade in the Asia Pacific, whether you see it enhancing or diluting those efforts in any way?  And would — in some time in the future, would China consider joining the negotiations for the TPP?  Thank you.

VOICE:  Thank you very much.  Regional integration, like TPP or some other mechanisms, are complementary to the Multilateral trade system.  It’s not a replacement.  It’s complementary.  Any regional integration, like TPP or some other forms, should be inclusive, open, and transparent.  And I — TPP and some other integration mechanism in this region are also complementary, and they are all the efforts to promote integration in this region.

Till now, we have not yet received any invitation from any TPP economy.  If, one day, we receive such an invitation, we will seriously study the invitation.  Thank you very much.

VOICE:  And I know many of you have questions, but unfortunately, this will need to be our last question, here, on the front row, and then we’ll have Ambassador close the press conference with closing remarks.

QUESTION:  Thank you for taking my question.  My question is for Mr. Kirk.  (Inaudible) of the TPP issue related to Japan, recently USTR had a concern about the Japanese market, market access, and insurance market related to Japan policy issue.  And also, you had a concern about Japanese automobile market.  So do you expect you have — you will have this kind of discussion in the bilateral consultation?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KIRK:  Well, you’re very correct.  Those are three particular issues that we have had numerous consultations with Japan on, and we will continue to engage them both in bilateral fora.  And we will also use the opportunity to discuss other issues with Japan in a bilateral consultations relative to their deliberation as they move forward with TPP, as I’m sure they will with other countries.  So those are just a few of the issues that we would address.

But I want to make it absolutely clear again, that we very much welcome the announcement by Prime Minister Noda, as we did the announcement by the previous prime minister when we were in Yokohama, for TPP last week.  I would also like to express to our colleagues from China, we believe part of the strength of TPP is that it is an open architecture.

This was not intended.  It is not designed to be a closed clubhouse.  All are welcome, but it is not one that also you should wait for an invitation.  I would assume that any of the economies in APEC that are interested in, and joining what we believe is going to be the 21st century, highest standard, trade liberalizing agreement, is welcome to make the same decision that the United States, and Peru, and Chile, and New Zealand, and Australia, and others have done.  And we would welcome consultations with any of those.

Finally, again, I want to express my gratitude to my colleagues for their hard work and contributions, not just during our deliberations today, but throughout the year.  And I would also be remiss if I did not, on behalf of all of our colleagues publicly again, express our condolences to our colleague from Mexico, and the Mexican administration over the tragic loss of their beloved Interior Minister in a tragic helicopter accident this morning.

And in closing, I would also on behalf of all of the ministers on the stage, express our extraordinary gratitude to the APEC host committee, for an extraordinarily well-done job, and to our senior administrators and staff that have worked so hard throughout the year to allow us to have the productive and engaged session that we did today.

Thank you all for joining us.  The press conference is closed.

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