US President Barack Obama’s bid to create the world’s largest free trade zone spanning the Pacific gained momentum as Canada and Mexico followed Japan into accession talks.
At a regional summit in his native Hawaii, Obama said harnessing the huge trade potential of the dynamic region was vital as he wooed countries from across the Pacific Rim into the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“Today we have got a chance to make progress towards our ultimate goal which is a seamless regional economy,” Obama told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation #APEC# forum, which accounts for more than half the world’s GDP.
“I want to emphasize that the Asia-Pacific region is absolutely critical to America’s economic growth.
“We consider it a top priority. And we consider it a top priority because we’re not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia-Pacific region is also successful.”
In another key priority for Obama, APEC — which has 21 members including China, Japan and Russia — pledged to remove barriers to green trade by limiting tariffs on environmental goods to five percent by the end of 2015.
Despite protests by China that the US agenda was overly ambitious, APEC members also made a non-binding promise to cut energy intensity — the power used compared with the economy — by 45 percent by 2035.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership was once an obscure pact among four APEC members — Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. But Obama transformed it into the cornerstone of a US free trade drive with Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam now also in the talks.
Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, committed to joining the negotiations on the eve of the summit. Mexico and C