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Business group pushes Pacific trade bloc at APEC

Many more visitors could begin traveling to Hawaii if the U.S. joined a Pacific free trade bloc, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said today.

Tom Donohue spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii about the potential benefits of the U.S. participating in the economic alliance called Trans-Pacific Partnership.
 
Diplomats and trade negotiators are discussing the bloc this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that began in Honolulu on Tuesday.
 
The group currently includes Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore. More nations, including Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Peru are seeking to join in addition to the U.S.
 
"For Hawaii, a successful TPP could result in a huge influx of new visitors from the Asia-Pacific, helping power the largest part of your economy, travel and tourism," Donohue told local business leaders at a luncheon.
 
Donohue said more trade could also bolster the U.S. economy, creating "hundreds of thousands of jobs" without increasing taxes and adding to the national debt.
 
The U.S. Trade Representative last month said negotiators had been "making really good progress" on Trans-Pacific Partnership and hoped to have the broad outline of an agreement at the APEC meeting.
 
Going beyond cutting tariffs, a deal would address financial services, intellectual property rights, government procurement, investment and conservation.
 
Donohue said it was vital that any agreement address state-owned businesses, potentially conflicting regulations, and the protection of intellectual property.
 
State-owned enterprises distort competition with private businesses and create and uneven playing field, he said. Conflicting regulations, meanwhile, "gum up" trade and amount to protectionism.
 
Further, intellectual property industries make up more than 60 percent of U.S. exports, so it’s important that an agreement address this issue as well, he said. Intellectual property theft is rampant is some Asia-Pacific nations, and enforcement of regulations is lax.
 
"The most urgent issue on our APEC agenda is advancing an aggressive and bold trade agenda," Donohue said.
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