Treasury: cut non-tariff barriers in Asia trade pact

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:01pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Treasury Department wants a proposed pan-Asian free trade pact to reduce non-tariff barriers that prevent many small businesses from participating in global trade, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Tuesday.

Charles Collyns, Treasury assistant secretary for international affairs, said that the Trans Pacific Partnership should be a "living agreement" with the capacity to add additional countries."

Many countries not directly negotiating the pact are "closely monitoring the negotiations with a view to joining the accession process," he said in prepared remarks to The Asia Foundation in San Francisco.

Currently, the United States, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam are negotiating a wide-ranging trade deal. Chile hosted a fifth round of talks last week.

Collyns, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of deputy ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries, said the Treasury hoped that the Trans Pacific Partnership would build upon U.S. free trade pacts, such as those negotiated with South Korea and Colombia, which have not been approved by Congress.

"In addition to the high standard of the previous U.S. free trade agreements, we expect that the TPP will address regulatory transparency, reduce behind-the-border obstacles to trade and investment, better integrate small and medium-sized enterprises into international trade and investment and take into account modern supply chains to facilitate regional integration," Collyns said.

He said such "next generation" trade agreements must ensure a level playing field for companies and workers on both sides of the Pacific and keep pace with increasingly complex cross-border investment.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Bernard Orr)