Washington: The United States, looking to the Asia-Pacific region for export growth following the recession, vowed on Wednesday to push for a "level playing field" as it takes the helm of the APEC forum.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum officials that Washington backs the principles of openness, freedom, transparency and fairness as key to "long-term, high-impact" economic growth.
She urged the 21 member countries to create an environment of "honest competition" rather than one of "government manipulation”, as she opened a preparatory meeting for the November APEC summit in Hawaii.
"The United States is looking for a level playing field," the chief US diplomat told the officials after saying some Americans feared it is "rigged to America's detriment”.
US workers and entrepreneurs must be able to sell their work overseas as easily as Americans can import goods and services from abroad, while investors in the region should have the confidence to invest across borders, she said.
Governments must also "enforce and protect intellectual property rights because theft isn't fair and because without these protections, inventors can't reap the rewards of their ideas, and innovation suffers," she said.
Hillary said all the APEC economies would benefit from a four-point economic platform that is open, free, transparent and fair.
"As we strive to meet President (Barack) Obama's goal of doubling exports in the next five years, we are looking to this region, to our partners in APEC, for opportunities to do more business," she said.
"And I know that every economy here is doing the same," Hillary added.
The secretary also called for an "open platform" in which even non-APEC countries can participate in the dynamic Asia-Pacific, which she added should "welcome ideas, products and capital from all corners of the world”.
She is seeking a "free platform" in which APEC countries would remove what she said are remaining "numerous non-tariff barriers" to trade and investment.
APEC should also ensure a "transparent platform" in which the "rules of the road are developed in consultation with all stakeholders and known to everyone," Hillary said.
"In the absence of transparency, corruption can flourish. Regulations can be applied arbitrarily," she added.
In building on the four principles, she said the United States will seek the approval of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and make "substantial progress" toward agreement on all key issues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
KORUS can "serve as a model for the region" as it eliminates tariffs on 95 percent of US consumer and industrial exports within five years, and significantly reduces agricultural tariffs, said Hillary.
The TPP promotes not just more growth, but "better growth" as it focuses on small and medium-sized businesses, which are major job creators, she said.
In Yokohama last year, the United States and eight other Pacific Rim nations separately set a goal of forging their own free-trade pact, the TPP, in time for the APEC summit in Hawaii.
The TPP talks involve Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Hillary also wanted to work with APEC to "achieve environmentally sustainable growth" partly by reducing barriers to trade in environmental goods and services.
Hillary said she hoped the TPP eventually will include all the APEC economies.
They are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
First Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 13:07