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Biden Administration touts economic progress as APEC wraps up

President Joe Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Asia-Pacific economic development Friday, as the week's conference concluded.
Biden Administration touts economic progress as APEC wraps up
Posted at 2:16 PM, Nov 17, 2023

President Biden left Asia-Pacific leaders with a message of the United States commitment to the region as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit concluded in San Francisco Friday, with the issuance of the 'Golden Gate Declaration.'

"America's commitment to the Asia-Pacific is unwavering and, in our view, from America's perspective, essential," Biden said at the APEC leaders retreat meeting.

The U.S. pursued a theme of 'creating a resilient and sustainable future for all' during its hosting duties for the 21 members economies.

"It is clear our steady commitment to APEC's mission has helped our region become a vanguard of global growth. Here in San Francisco, we emphasized that effective policies require, above all, responsiveness to all our people and economies," the declaration states.

The statement recognizes economic challenges, as it reaffirms commitments on economic integration, creating level playing fields, accelerating clean energy transitions and working towards implementing WTO agreements.

"Over the last few days we've worked together, that's not hyperbole; we've worked together to find ways to build an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable economic for the Asia-Pacific," Biden told member economies.

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Biden noted $50 billion in investments from U.S. companies into APEC economies as he sought to highlight U.S. partnerships in the region under his economic agenda, as the U.S. has sought to deepen ties in the Indo-Pacific.

"We are really building up this strong, interconnected foundation that is intended to demonstrate to the region that our commitment is here, it's here to stay," said Deputy Assistant Secretary Camille Dawson, of the bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs.

"It's the conversations that I've been having, with individuals throughout the course of the week, that reflect a real shared sense of purpose, and a recognition that, you know, we all have responsibility to ensure that we are laying the groundwork and meeting our ambitions, so that our children, you know, have a planet to live on, which is sustainable, in which will allow communities to thrive not only in the United States, but around the region and globally," said Dawson.

But as the United States and Indo-Pacific partners reached consensus on pillars of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, an initiative unveiled by the Biden administration last year, the United States did not announce a new trade agreement.

IPEF economies that make up about 40 percent of the global GDP signed a supply chain agreement and finished negotiations on clean economy and fair economy agreements. There was not an announcement on the framework's trade pillar.

The administration is touting progress, though.

"We're really proud of where we are, the trade pillar remains a work in progress, we want to make sure that it moves forward with the highest possible standards, and is beneficial to all people. So we're going to continue to work away at it with our partners, everybody is is very dedicated to continuing to make progress. But we're thrilled that we have so much to show for our first 18 months of work," said Mira Rapp-Hooper, Senior Director for East Asia and Oceania on the National Security Council.

While Biden underscored progress, he also called on the leaders to work together on inclusivity, announcing a $900 million initiative to expand access to opportunities for women, and on artificial intelligence, touting the U.S.' own initiatives.

"This is a shared challenge and requires shared solutions. And I would respectfully suggest all of us around this table have a responsibility to work together to seize the opportunities and manage the risks of this technology, which are so critical to our collective economic futures," Biden said. 

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The forum also served as a moment for bilateral engagements. Biden met with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who had his first face to face meeting with Xi this week. The leaders' discussion included counter-narcotics efforts. Senior administration officials said Mexico saw the U.S. engaging with the PRC as positive.

Member economies paid close attention to the key meeting south of San Francisco Wednesday, that ended a year without engagement between Biden and Xi Jinping.

A series of high level diplomatic engagements paved the way for the leaders to meet after economic and military tensions led to a decline in the relationship.

"Just talking, just being blunt with one another so there's no misunderstanding is a key element to maintaining global stability and delivering for the American people," said Biden afterwards.

"We are in an era of challenges and changes. It is also an era of hope. The world needs China and the United States to work together for a better future. We, the largest developing country and the largest developed country, must handle our relations well," Xi said as he courted American business leaders Wednesday, particularly underscoring people to people ties.

Biden announced the resumption of military to military communications at the highest levels, an agreement from China to take steps to counter the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals, discussions on AI and, ahead of the summit, an agreement to accelerate efforts to combat climate change.

"This agreement says very specifically, all greenhouse gas will be included in the next NDC, which I couldn't even get them to agree to when I was in Beijing three months ago. So that's a big deal, because that means methane, topical ozone, nitrous oxide, things that are damaging, but which haven't been paid attention to. It's also it's very important, because simultaneously, they released their national plan for methane, which we've waited for for some very time and really wanted. And they did that as a matter of good faith to say, you know, we're serious, I'm gonna do this," said John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate.

But while both countries noted progress in the relationship, Biden also noted differences on creating a fair "intellectual playing field" and discussed areas of tension, including Taiwan, coercive actions in the South China Sea and global conflicts, including Russia's war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East, emphasizing countries use influence to prevent escalation, as the PRC has relationships with Iran.

The Chair's statement on the APEC leaders meeting says members also underscored positions on Russia's war in Ukraine, with most members condemning it. They also discussed the conflict in Gaza. "Leaders, including the United States, shared their respective positions. Some Leaders also shared the united messages of the Joint Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh," the statement says.

Though Biden called the conversations productive and straightforward with Xi, he also created headlines when he once more called Xi a dictator "in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that, it's a communist country that is based on a form of government totally different than ours," Biden said.

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