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Washington Notebook: APEC ministers agree on pro-trade supply chain policies

   The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meeting wrapped up Tuesday in Bali, Indonesia, with participants committing to maintain their freeze on raising new trade and investment barriers until the end of 2016 and rollback protectionist and trade-distorting measures.
   In a joint statement, the group of nations said they would cooperate on regional integration to address the slowdown and imbalance in global growth, including offering technical support for achieving an Asia-Pacific free trade zone.
   APEC ministers said they would work to improve commerce for environmental goods and services, infrastructure development, small business financing, anti-corruption programs, and economic integration of women. Initiatives to improve the investment climate for infrastructure will help achieve APEC’s goal of 10-percent improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015 in terms of time, cost and uncertainty, the statement said. Ministers committed to provide assistance to certain countries to overcome obstacles to supply chain performance and to establish the APEC Trade and Investment Liberalization Sub-Fund on Supply Chain Connectivity with the help of donations for the capacity-building plan.
   President Obama canceled plans to attend the APEC summit as well as a meeting for nations engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement negotiations to devote his attention to the U.S. budget crisis and ending the U.S. government shutdown. Secretary of State John Kerry will represent the United States at the TPP talks this week.
   APEC economies represent 55 percent of global GDP and about 45 percent of global goods and services trade. The United States exports more than $1 trillion of goods and services to APEC countries, representing more than half of total U.S. exports.
   “Our capacity to grow our economy and create jobs is integrally tied to the success of this region and our engagement with it,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Saturday at a press briefing, according to a State Department transcript.
   Kerry said he took a personal interest in promoting trade and investment that can help the environment and reduce climate change. “For example, implementing tariff reductions on solar panels and other environmental goods will speed growth in the profitable sector of green technology at a time when we see great environmental degradation and climate change that threatens the way of life in the Pacific region,” he said.
   In December, the World Trade Organization will hold a ministerial meeting in Bali on a multilateral package of proposals dealing with trade facilitation, agriculture and development.