U.S. Trade Representative To Visit Singapore, Malaysia, China

Washington - United States Trade Representative (USTR) Susan Schwab will visit three countries in Asia August 22-29, her office announced August 16.

Schwab will stop in Singapore on August 22-23, and then will attend the 38th Economic Ministers' Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 23-26.  She will travel on to China August 27-29, her first visit to that country while serving in her current position.

While in Singapore, Schwab will meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss results of the bilateral U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which took effect in 2004, and to talk about regional economic and trade issues.

"ASEAN is one of the most rapidly growing and dynamic regions in the world and a commercially and strategically significant U.S. partner," Schwab said in a news release.  "We view intensifying relations with Southeast Asia as a top priority."

The 10 member countries of ASEAN are Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

During the ASEAN meeting, Schwab plans to discuss with ministers from the ASEAN countries and other participants, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea and Japan, ways to revive the stalled Doha Round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). (See related article.)

The United States "remains committed to achieving an ambitious market-opening outcome" to the multilateral trade talks to encourage global economic growth, the USTR's office said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Schwab also will meet with Malaysian officials and involved parties to discuss negotiations on the bilateral United States-Malaysia FTA.  The two sides have already concluded two rounds of negotiations, making solid progress toward their goal of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement by the end of the year, according to the USTR's office.  A third round of negotiations is scheduled to open in Malaysia during the week of September 18. (See related article.)

On her debut visit to China as trade representative, Schwab is scheduled to meet with Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai to discuss China's role in helping to restart the WTO Doha Round negotiations and to urge more progress by China on issues related to its WTO accession commitments, such as strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights and increasing access for American goods and services.


Trade between the United States and the ASEAN member countries has grown substantially over the past decade.  Collectively, the ASEAN countries are now the fourth largest trading partner of the United States, with two-way trade totaling about $150 billion in 2005.

In 2002, President Bush announced the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI) with the intent of further strengthening U.S. trade and investment ties to ASEAN, both regionally and bilaterally. The EAI offers the possibility of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations to ASEAN members that are committed to economic reform and openness, and have negotiated a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.

The United States concluded its FTA with Singapore in 2003 and currently is negotiating a bilateral FTA with Thailand as well as Malaysia. It recently concluded a TIFA with Cambodia and a bilateral market access agreement with Vietnam as part of that country's bid to join the WTO. (See related article.)

The United States has active trade and investment dialogues with Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei and is working with Laos to support its WTO accession.

Since the U.S.-Singapore FTA came into force in 2004, trade between the two countries has increased by 12.6 percent to nearly $36 billion in 2005 - making Singapore the 16th largest goods trading partner of the United States.  At the same time, U.S. foreign direct investment in Singapore rose to $56.9 billion in 2004, a 13 percent increase from 2003.

Recently, the United States has taken a number of steps to guarantee a more balanced trade relationship with China.

In February, USTR unveiled a top-to-bottom review of U.S. trade policy toward China. This review called on China to implement more fully its WTO accession commitments and announced measures the United States will employ to better monitor and enforce China's compliance with international obligations. (See related article.)

The United States consistently has promoted increased dialogue with China on bilateral trade issues.

In April, during meetings of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), a government-to-government consultative mechanism that provides a forum for resolution of trade issues and promotion of bilateral commercial opportunities, China promised to address U.S. trade concerns in three areas: enhancing market access for U.S. companies, farmers and ranchers; improving protection of intellectual property rights; and increasing transparency of trade regulation. (See related article.)

The text of the USTR press release announcing Schwab's travel plans can be found at the Web site of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

For more on U.S. policy, see Trade and Economics and East Asia and the Pacific.