Third IPEF Negotiation Round Commences in Singapore


The third negotiation round of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) began last week in Singapore. Participants aim to make significant progress throughout the year. Acting Assistant US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Sarah Ellerman, is heading the US delegation on the IPEF's trade pillar.

Prior to this week's round, the US Trade Representative (USTR) released summaries of proposed text tabled in the previous round, covering digital trade, labor, environment, and technical assistance. The Commerce Department leads the other three IPEF pillars, which include supply chains, the clean economy, and the fair economy/anti-corruption.

The USTR's summaries of US text tabled at the second negotiation round are as follows:

Pillar I: Trade
  1. Digital Trade

The US proposed text on digital trade seeks to promote inclusive, sustainable growth of the digital economy for workers, consumers, and businesses, especially Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). The provisions aim to bolster trust and confidence in the digital economy, enhance access to online information and internet usage, facilitate digital trade while avoiding unfair trade practices, support the development and use of emerging technologies, and advance resilient and secure digital infrastructure.

The proposal addresses data protection, consumer protection, and artificial intelligence to promote trust in the digital economy. It also includes provisions to promote internet access and online services, address the digital divide, and invest in education and training.

  1. Labor

The US proposed labor text for the IPEF's trade pillar aligns with the Ministerial Statement, which emphasizes provisions and initiatives that benefit workers and ensure free and fair trade contributing to sustainable and inclusive growth. The proposed text requires each Party to adopt and maintain internationally recognized labor rights in their labor laws and promotes compliance with labor laws through commitments related to non-derogation and effective enforcement.

The text also establishes cooperative mechanisms to support parties in achieving labor goals and collaboratively addressing labor issues, including capacity building, sharing information, and best practices. Additionally, the proposed text includes a mechanism to address forced labor in supply chains and encourages corporate accountability in cases where an entity violates local labor laws.

  1. Environment

The US proposed text on environment for the IPEF's trade pillar aligns with the Ministerial Statement, which emphasizes provisions and initiatives contributing to environmental protection and addressing common sustainability challenges, such as climate change. The text promotes high levels of environmental protection and commitments to not weaken or reduce protections in domestic environmental laws for attracting trade or investment.

The proposal focuses on environment issues relevant to the Indo-Pacific Region, including marine environment, forests, fisheries, wildlife, fisheries subsidies, marine litter and plastics pollution, air quality, and biodiversity conservation. It also includes provisions related to climate and trade, resource efficiency, circular economies, digital economy and environmental sustainability, renewable energy and clean energy technologies, and sustainable finance.

  1. Technical Assistance

The US proposed text on Technical Assistance and Economic Cooperation for the IPEF's trade pillar aims to facilitate the full implementation of high-standard trade provisions in the Indo-Pacific. The proposed text lays out principles and a framework for identifying needs and resources to support the implementation of other IPEF chapters.

The text also establishes a Committee on Development and Economic Cooperation to support developing countries in identifying capacity-building needs and coordinating limited resources. A Working Group, composed of both government and non-government representatives, will be established under the Committee to make recommendations regarding country action plans.

  1. Inclusivity

Australia and New Zealand proposed text on Inclusivity for the IPEF's trade pillar, emphasizing the importance of expanding access and participation in the regional economy for all segments of society. The proposal seeks to strengthen cooperation across the IPEF membership to expand “meaningful access to, and participation in, the regional economy for all segments of society, including Indigenous Peoples, minorities, women, people with disabilities, rural populations, and local communities”.



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