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APEC 2007: Advancing U.S. Exports to the Asia-Pacific Region

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC


APEC 2007: Advancing U.S. Exports to the Asia-Pacific Region

REP. FALEOMAVAEGA: (Strikes gavel.) The Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment hearing will come to order. I do want to thank our distinguished witnesses for taking the time to be away from their busy schedule to come and share with us their insights and views concerning this important subject that we're about to deliberate in our hearing this afternoon.

I do want to thank my good friend the distinguished ranking member of the Subcommittee, the gentleman from Illinois, my good friend Mr. Manzullo, for being here. And also the gentleman from -- I was going to say California, but he looks more like he's from Arizona -- the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Flake. Pretty soon my colleagues from California will be here, I'm sure.

But I would like to begin this hearing this afternoon by presenting an opening statement and then I will then give time to my ranking member for his statement, and Mr. Flake is more than welcome to join us as well then, if he has an opening statement to be made.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, as it is generally known, is a cooperative forum in which members arrive at decisions by way of consensus. Some say it's the Pacific way of doing things, by consensus. All commitments -- made by members are voluntary. APEC has no formal enforcement mechanisms to compel members to comply with any trade liberalization policies previously declared at APEC meetings.

Critics argue that the non-binding nature of APEC trade liberalization commitments makes them easy to delay or to avoid. They maintain that without some sort of compulsion and, in some cases, punitive measures in trade agreements, there is little incentive for countries to reduce trade and investment barriers.

For this administration, the APEC meetings provide an opportunity to reiterate its interest in forming a free trade area of the Asia- Pacific region, and to hold bilateral talks with a number of important Asian Pacific leaders which, for the most part, exclude the South Pacific Island nations. During the APEC meetings held in Sydney earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and President Bush signed the U.S.-Australian Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. Also, during his speech at the APEC summit meeting, President Bush proposed to create an Asia-Pacific democracy partnership.

However, some APEC members were critical of the departure of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to the end of the leaders' meeting. The early departure of both Secretary Rice and President Bush from their respective meetings was heavily discussed by the media. The decision by President Bush to depart after the first day of the two-day leaders' meeting came only a few days before the start of the APEC meetings, and was considered by some commentators a blow to relations with Australia and certainly counterproductive to U.S. ambitions to forward its agenda during the event. Some analysts Bush -- according to some analysts, Bush's early arrival did little to counter the negative impact of the early departure.

In the weeks prior to the APEC meetings, the media ran stories indicating that many of President Bush's top advisers were recommending that he not attend APEC meetings at all. The perceived slight to APEC was compounded, in view of critics, by President Bush's misstatements in which he referred to APEC as OPEC, which is the overseas -- OPEC -- it's the oil producing states -- Overseas Private something -- Energy Council, or Corporation. How does that sound? Well, it's a lot better than saying OPEC. It should have been APEC, right?

And his comments about visiting Austrian troops in Iraq, which he meant Australian troops. In addition, Secretary Rice's decision to -- to depart with President Bush, as well as her decision not to attend the recent ASEAN meetings, added to the existing regional concerns that the Bush administration is not giving adequate attention to the Asia-Pacific region.

For years, I have stated that I believe the U.S. does not pay enough attention in this part of the world and the policy of benign neglect of the Pacific Island nations is quite obvious. This year, President Bush hosted New Zealand's prime minister, but could not be bothered to meet with 18 Pacific Island heads of state and prime ministers who traveled to Washington for a historic visit. What message does this send to our long-time allies?

What message does it also send when APEC members agree to take four specific actions on climate change on a voluntary basis? Are we serious about addressing climate change? If we are, why do we hesitate to enter into binding agreements and encourage other nations to do the same? To date, the U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocols and, as a result, the world community does not take the U.S. seriously when we speak of global climate change.

I'm interested in hearing from our panelists this afternoon whether they agree with the assessment of Australia, the Bush administration, that APEC's Joint Declaration on Climate Change was a significant outcome of the Sydney meetings. I would also be interested to know why there has been a trend for APEC to take up non- trade activities. I'd like to know what the administration can do to enhance U.S. participation in APEC and forestall the efforts of some nations to form an all-Asian trade association, which would include -- exclude, rather -- the United States.

I do want to welcome our distinguished visitors -- our panelists, rather -- and I would like to give this time to our distinguished senior ranking member of the Subcommittee for his opening statement.

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REP. FALEOMAVAEGA: I would like to say to the gentlemen that our most successful companies that do very well in these Asian countries, business wise, you never hear from them, because they don't talk about it. You might also know among the $342 billion of export goods that come from China, a lot of that percentage comes from American companies who manufacture products and goods in China. And they just turn around and export it back to the United States. I want to share that with my colleagues here. And let's face it, one problem is why so much of the labor market goes to these foreign countries is because they're cheap labor. And I don't know how we could -- maybe Ms. Cutler can help us with that. But I'll withhold my questions.

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