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October 30, 2008, Barbara Weisel and Jeffrey Schott

(Click to enlarge) Barbara Weisel and Jeffrey Schott discuss the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement.

U.S. Engagement in the Asia-Pacific: The Decision to Join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership

(Washington DC) October 30 - The Asia Pacific region is one of growing economic importance to the United States. Recent trade and economic developments in the region have created new opportunities and challenges for the United States as it seeks to deepen its engagement with this commercially and strategically significant area of the world. In an East-West Center event, Barbara Weisel, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, focused on these developments and the decision by the United States to launch negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, and Chile.

Jeffrey Schott, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called the effort “strategic.” He explained that a trans-Pacific element to trade agreements would be necessary to Asia given that the United States is and will remain a major market for regional countries. It is not yet clear, however, whether the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could lead to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as has been proposed. Eventually, the TPP would achieve more “heft” if additional members could be brought on board.

Barbara Weisel was appointed as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in 2004. She is responsible for developing and implementing U.S. trade policy toward countries in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and ASEAN. She is the lead negotiator for free trade agreement negotiations with Thailand and Malaysia, as well as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership. Ms. Weisel previously served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative in the same office. Prior to joining USTR in 1994, Ms. Weisel worked at the State Department from 1984-1994.  She received master’s degrees in economic development and Islamic civilization from Harvard University.

Jeffrey J. Schott joined the Peterson Institute for International Economics in 1983 and is currently a senior fellow working on international trade policy and economic sanctions. During his tenure at the Institute, Schott was also a visiting lecturer at Princeton University (1994) and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University (1986-88). He was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1982-83) and an official of the U.S. Treasury Department (1974-82) in international trade and energy policy. During the Tokyo Round of multilateral trade negotiations, he was a member of the U.S. delegation that negotiated the GATT Subsidies Code. Mr. Schott is also a member of the Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy of the US Department of State.

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