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Officials vie to narrow APEP focus

Presented by PhRMA: Delivered every Monday by 10 a.m., Weekly Trade examines the latest news in global trade politics and policy.
Oct 23, 2023 View in browser

By Ari Hawkins

Presented by

With help from Doug Palmer, Sarah Anne Aarup and Camille Gijs 


— President Joe Biden is hosting on Nov. 3 the first inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders summit, a framework which has yet to progress past initial consultations after its announcement in June 2022.

— World Trade Organization officials are in Geneva for a two-day meeting aimed at building momentum for proposals over dispute settlement reform and fishing subsidies ahead of the group’s 13th Ministerial Conference.

— The United States and the European Union agreed to “make progress” on steel and aluminum and critical minerals disputes on Friday in a major step down from what the transatlantic partners were hoping to achieve at a senior-level summit.

Happy Monday, Oct. 23. Welcome to Morning Trade!! Who said D.C. was a swamp? The weather looks perfect this week. Send us your trade news: [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. You can also follow us on X: @_arihawkins, @gavinbade and @tradereporter.


A message from PhRMA:

The COVID-19 public health emergency is over. Across the world there is an abundance of affordable, often free, treatments. But the Biden Administration is considering proposals that would allow foreign competitors to effectively steal American intellectual property on COVID-19 medicines through another WTO TRIPS waiver that would harm American workers, patients and innovation. It’s time to move beyond this ideological debate and make progress on a trade and health agenda for the future. Learn more.

Driving the Day

President Joe Biden, President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau hug each other during a message for the media as part of the '2023 North American Leaders' Summit at Palacio Nacional on January 10, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. | Hector Vivas/Getty Images

APEP LEADERS IN WASHINGTON: As first reported in Morning Trade, the Biden administration will host leaders from Latin American countries at a summit to discuss economic development and migration issues the first week of November, granting the White House a chance to iron out its APEP framework amid rising scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and foreign officials.

Quick reminder: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter earlier this month to Biden administration officials expressing skepticism over the APEP strategy and whether it could advance its goals and counter the growing influence of China in Latin America.

The Biden administration delivered two briefings on the APEP framework to lawmakers over the summer, including one in June, and a second in July, when officials said they would be pivoting away from text-based agreements with binding commitments.

The inaugural summit takes place Nov. 3, and aims to gather leaders from 11 Latin American nations. Senior officials are expected to establish separate tracks targeting regional economic concerns at the meeting, as part of an effort to narrow the framework’s focus after months of high-level consultations, officials familiar with discussions told Morning Trade.

Joe Biden will also use the meeting to reaffirm commitment "to deepen economic integration in America, drive more inclusive and sustainable economic growth and address the underlying economic causes of irregular migration," per the White House. The program comes as bipartisan lawmakers and officials from participating countries express skepticism over the program due to a lack of concrete deliverables since its announcement.

“Leaders still don’t know what it’s supposed to do or achieve,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, who consults with Latin American officials involved in APEP negotiations. “There continues to be uncertainty around the meeting because after a year and a half the proposal is still evolving.”

A Biden administration official pushed back against APEP criticism in a statement to Morning Trade which said “we have been working over the past year to establish this regional architecture, identify an initial set of priority workstreams, and discuss specific and tangible outcomes we aim to achieve in each of those workstreams.”

“We see the Americas Partnership as an important regional economic platform where the governments in our hemisphere can focus on specific, practical, and near-term actions for long-term impacts that will result in a more integrated and prosperous Americas that benefits all of our citizens,” the administration official added.


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Also in November: The APEP gathering comes ahead of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, as expectations mount for a meeting between the American president and Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping amid rising tensions between the world’s largest economies.

THE WTO’S MC13 WARM-UP LAP: Capital-based officials from many of the 164 members of the World Trade Organization are in Geneva today for a two-day meeting aimed at building momentum for a set of proposed deals on dispute settlement reform, fishing subsidies and other issues at the group’s upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference in February.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for the gathering in the hope that bringing in senior officials from capitals to provide “political guidance” would make it easier for members to reach agreement on the outstanding issues in coming months. However, it’s not clear how many officials will attend the meeting. The United States, for example, will be represented by its WTO ambassador, Maria Pagán, who is based in Geneva.

The aim is for the senior officials to take stock of progress in the negotiations; make decisions and solve problems where they can; point the way for a package of “deliverables” at MC13; and deliberate on pressing global issues, a Geneva trade official told Morning Trade.

Okonjo-Iweala also is “pushing hard” for the group to send a message that the WTO is actively engaged in addressing global food security concerns but it’s unclear if that will be successful, the trade official said.


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What to watch for: General Council Chair Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme will issue a summary of the meeting Tuesday, which will be the outcome document for senior officials to take back to their capitals for ministers to review. Okonjo-Iweala and Molokomme could also hold a joint press conference Tuesday, although that has not yet been announced.

LDC initiative: The meeting will start with a short session of the General Council, the WTO’s highest decision-making body outside of a ministerial conference. Members are expected to approve a proposal calling for a smooth and sustainable transition period for any developing country that could lose trade benefits because it is no longer a “least-developed country.”

Latest fishing subsidy deal tally: Members are striving to reach a second deal to curb harmful fishing subsidies before MC13, while moving to ratify the initial agreement they reached last year. Another five to seven members will deposit their instruments of acceptance for the initial pact today, bringing the number of members that have ratified the deal to around 44. That would still require another 66 additional acceptances to bring the pact into force.

EU-U.S. TRADE TALKS PAUSE WITH A WHIMPER: Washington and Brussels failed to solve their trade disputes on steel and aluminum and critical minerals at a high-level summit on Friday where U.S. President Joe Biden hosted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

You read it here first. POLITICO scooped the text on Friday afternoon, which laid out that the EU and the U.S. agreed to “make progress” to resolve trade disputes — a major step down from what Brussels and Washington were hoping to achieve at the summit, after negotiators had bargained in search of a substantial deal right up to the eve of the meeting.

Businesses unhappy: “Time is running out and businesses on both shores of the Atlantic face uncertainty with a prospect of tariffs and future rebalancing measures,” said BusinessEurope’s Fredrik Persson. “We urge the two sides not to lose the sense of urgency and stay committed to finding permanent solutions for both of these important issues.”

What’s next: Now, the Biden administration and the Commission are set to consult with stakeholders on critical minerals “in the coming weeks.”

But but but: Without a deal, the U.S. tariffs and EU counter-tariffs are set to snap back on Jan. 1. Washington has, however, been trying to make amends with Brussels, as it committed not to reimpose steel and aluminum tariffs at the end of the year.

You’re too kind. The Biden administration wants to give “breathing room” to the negotiations, said one official with direct knowledge of the talks, granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the deal. The move is a “gesture of goodwill” toward the EU, they added. Full story here (for Pros!).

What about the TTC then? An earlier version of the joint statement, dated Oct. 13 and seen by POLITICO, said that the next EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council summit would take place in December. In its final version, however, the statement was made more vague to say that the upcoming TTC would take place “later in 2023.”

OFFICIAL: U.S. COULD CURB CHINA CLOUD ACCESS: Alan Estevez, undersecretary of Commerce for industry and security, said the U.S. is considering measures to restrict China’s access to cloud computing services, in an interview with Tokyo-headquartered Nikkei Asia.

"We're looking at what the best way to control that, if we can, is, and that requires consultation with industry," Estevez said over the weekend. "The concern is ... AI in the future will probably command and control military logistics [and] military radar, [and] electronic warfare capabilities will be advanced. So we want to make sure that we're controlling the use."


JOIN 10/24 FOR AN UPDATE ON CHIPS: America is rapidly restructuring its semiconductor supply chain and manufacturing base, thanks in part to billion-dollar initiatives like the CHIPS and Science Act. But who is winning the reward? Join POLITICO Oct. 24 to get an update on CHIPS what other challenges have emerged now that the new era is underway. REGISTER NOW.

Weekly number

International Overnight

— China is introducing new export controls on three types of graphite as of Dec. 1, the Ministry of Commerce announced, per Sarah Anne Aarup and Antonia Zimmermann (for Pros!).

— Joe Biden is making a new case to the American public for shipping military supplies to the wars in Ukraine and Israel. His argument: many of those supplies are made in America — and that's good for American jobs, per Joe Gould and Connor O'Brien.

— Lawmakers and activists warn that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to travel to Hong Kong risks whitewashing Beijing’s chokehold on the territory, Phelim Kine and Blanca Begert report.

— Recriminations were spreading Saturday morning after the failure of talks on the creation of a new fund to help vulnerable countries rebuild from climate disasters, reports Karl Mathiesen and Zia Weise.

— The House GOP’s enormous speaker field is officially set, with nine Republicans seeking to somehow unify their splintered party after almost three weeks without a leader, POLITICO’s Congress team reports.

THAT’S ALL FOR MORNING TRADE! See you again soon! In the meantime, drop the team a line: [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow us @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Trade.


A message from PhRMA:

Treatments for COVID-19 are widely available around the world. Expanding the IP waiver is – and always has been – unnecessary and harmful. As the U.S. International Trade Commission’s recent report highlights, intellectual property is essential for innovation and voluntary partnerships produce COVID-19 treatments for over 4 billion people in developing countries. The Biden administration should reject continued efforts by foreign competitors to steal American IP. Read more.


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Officials vie to narrow APEP focus


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