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Opening Plenary Statement by Ambassador Michael Froman at the APEC Ministerial Meeting

Manila, Philippines – “Thank you very much Mr. Secretary. First I want to offer our condolences to the victims of the attacks in Paris and their families. To paraphrase the French newspaper Le Monde after 9/11, ‘Today we are all French.’

“I think Tim Groser put it best, when he said the most important thing we can do is not be deterred, to stay the course and maintain progress toward creating greater opportunity for our people.

“In that realm, I want to thank the government of the Philippines for their leadership. APEC has been a very important forum as an incubator of new ideas for integrating not only in this region, but also for the global economy.

“The Trade Facilitation Agreement, the Information Technology Agreement, and the Environmental Goods Agreement all started at APEC, and APEC economies have a responsibility for driving their conclusion. 

“With regard to the Trade Facilitation Agreement,  half the APEC economies have yet to ratify the agreement.  On the Information Technology Agreement, we can all work together to finalize the tariff staging arrangement. On the Environmental Goods Agreement, I hope first we can all meet our obligations agreed to by our leaders, to cut our tariffs below 5 percent by the end of the year on a list of goods, but also work together at the WTO – those of us who are involved there – to agree on the scope of coverage on that agreement as well.

“I also wanted to welcome the progress under the leadership of the Philippines this year on SMEs, on improving supply chain management by 10 percent, on the roadmap for electric vehicles, on the principles for advertising standards, on the agenda for structural reform and on the efforts to improve the ease of doing business.

“It’s been a very productive year under the leadership of the Philippines. And looking ahead, we welcome the efforts being made to set a new agenda, including on digital trade and avoiding new forms of protectionism, and on the framework on services – which many of the delegates have already spoken about in terms of its importance to all of our economies.

“I would also like to mention humanitarian goods. I hope we can reach a consensus on the APEC principles for eliminating tariffs and speeding the delivery of humanitarian goods in the context of disasters. As well as building on the agreement last year on intellectual property rights, where we all agreed to share best practices on trade secrets. I think we can build a consensus around the work that’s been done on that as well.

“Let me conclude by just mentioning TPP, as many others have, in thanking my fellow ministers for their dedication and their efforts to bring that to a close. We welcome the interest of other economies in that process. We do very much view it as an important building block towards the free trade agreement of the Asia-Pacific, along with other bilateral, trilateral, and regional arrangements.

“Finally, I know we’ll have time to talk about this more tomorrow, but the Nairobi Ministerial is only a couple weeks away and we have the opportunity  to try to make it a successful ministerial in terms of a measured, but meaningful package of outcomes and one where we reach agreement on how to deal with the outstanding issues as well as new issues, including some of the ones APEC has been on the cutting edge of developing.

“So thank you, Mr. Secretary, for the opportunity and I look forward to our discussion again tomorrow.”