WASHINGTON - United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will travel to Southeast Asia April 4-7 to promote global, regional, and bilateral trade liberalization, and to underscore the importance of continued economic integration in the Asia Pacific region.
Stopping in Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, Zoellick will discuss the benefits of trade to promoting opportunity and economic, as well as the complementary role trade liberalization can play with economic reform efforts.
"This trip is an important indication of America's economic engagement with Southeast Asia. Trade liberalization is a win-win opportunity. Trade boosts economies and opens markets for farmers, businesses and workers, thereby creating jobs and providing consumers with more choices, lower costs and better quality goods and services," said Zoellick. "I look forward to listening and learning, as well as discussing trade liberalization with my fellow ministers, government officials, business leaders and members of civil society, and seeing firsthand the exciting opportunities in Southeast Asia."
Zoellick will visit Thailand from April 4-5, where he will discuss U.S.-Thai bilateral relations with senior Thai officials, including Prime Minister Thaksin in order to promote trade liberalization. Zoellick will be the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the Royal Chitralada Projects, a center for agricultural innovation on the grounds of the Thai Royal Palace. While in Thailand, Zoellick will also meet with economic ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the first time that the USTR has participated in the ASEAN Economic Ministers framework in over a decade.
"I am honored to be the first U.S. Trade Representative to travel to Thailand in over a decade, and I am looking forward to experiencing firsthand Thailand's vibrant culture," said Zoellick. "Leaders from the ASEAN countries, such as Thailand's Minister Adisai and Singapore's Minister Yeo, played a critical role in our successful launch of trade negotiations in Doha last fall. ASEAN is an important market of 500 million people, and our fourth largest trading partner. We anticipate renewing a relationship that can open Southeast Asia to U.S. exports.
Singapore and Indonesia:
Zoellick will travel to Singapore and Indonesia from April 5-7. He will discuss with Singapore's leaders progress on the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), currently under negotiation, and its impact on the region. In Indonesia, Zoellick will meet with President Megawati and express the Bush Administrations support for her government and her efforts to promote economic reforms.
Economic development in Southeast Asia is a key contributor to regional stability and promoting greater prosperity. I look forward to meeting again with Indonesian President Megawati and Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew to discuss how trade liberalization, particularly our future FTA with Singapore, can promote economic growth throughout the region, said Zoellick. Indonesia faces critical economic reforms to restore the economy to good health. The U.S. supports the democratic government of Indonesia under the leadership of President Megawati, and we recognize the contributions job creation and security can make to the successful return of Indonesia's economy to a path of robust growth.
To underscore the opportunities that come from globalization and regional cooperation and highlight the potential benefits to other countries in the region from the U.S.-Singapore FTA, Zoellick will visit the Indonesia islands of Batam and Bintan. He will discuss an "integrated tariff initiative" proposal that the United States and Singapore are considering that would not only allow duty-free trade in certain IT products but also eliminate burdensome rules of origin, paperwork and processing fees for such products, further encouraging trade and investment.