US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has said the discussion on digital trade and economy at the meeting of the Indo-Pacific trade ministers will seek to build connectivity and trust among the member countries.

The trade ministers of 14 countries, including India and the United States, are here for the first two-day physical meeting of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

In her welcome remark kicking off the Ministerial, Tai said the IPEF will discuss issues like digital economy, labour, environment, agriculture and trade facilitation.

“Let me say a couple words on the digital economy. We want to build connectivity and trust between key markets, including standards on cross border data flows and data localisation. We are also working to address related issues such as online privacy and artificial intelligence,” Tai said on Thursday.

To address the serious vulnerabilities in supply chains exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the IPEF is pursuing an accelerated implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s trade facilitation agreement, she added.

The USTR said the IPEF will work on streamlining the movement of goods across borders and supporting agricultural trade through science based decision making and the adoption of transparent regulatory practices.

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“This will help our farmers, ranchers and fishers deliver their products to markets throughout the region. And critically, we will continue establishing strong labour and environmental standards and corporate accountability provisions to build the foundation for sustainable growth,” Tai said.

In her remark, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said the 14 countries together are creating a roadmap for cooperation, aligning objectives to meet our economic goals for workers, businesses and communities.

The success of IPEF will fuel economic activity and investment across borders and throughout the Indo-Pacific region, she said.

The IPEF is a grouping of 14 countries in the Indo-Pacific region, which account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The IPEF was launched jointly by the US and other partner countries of the Indo-Pacific region on May 23 at Tokyo.

It seeks to strengthen economic partnership amongst participating countries with the objective of enhancing resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness and competitiveness in the region.

The 14 members of IPEF are Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the US.

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