US government shutdown derails trade negotiations with Europe and Asia-Pacific

THE government shutdown in the United States has dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to seal trade and investment deals with major economic partners in Europe and Asia.

A round of talks next week with the European Union (EU) to discuss the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was cancelled yesterday.

And over in Bali on Saturday, US officials battled to put a positive spin on the country’s trade relations with Asia in the wake of President Obama's no-show at this weekend’s key Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.

European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Friday that his US counterpart Michael Froman called to tell him that Washington would not be able to send its delegation because of the government shutdown.

Meanwhile, Mr Froman himself was smoothing over ruffled feathers in Asia, speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The US exports more than US$1 trillion worth of goods and services to the Apec countries. These exports support millions of hardworking American jobs,” said Mr Froman. US$1 trillion is about S$1.25 trillion.

The US trade representative also underlined the importance of the 21-member grouping to the overall goal of restarting stalled trade talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“There is a hopeful sign this week of our ability to work together and make progress at the WTO,” said Mr Froman.

ignatius@sph.com.sg