Months after it unveiled a model bilateral investment treaty (BIT), a top Obama Administration official has said the US is working on BIT with a number of countries, including India, China and Mauritius.

This is a part of the Obama Administration’s effort to promote investment policies and enhance trade, the US Trade Representatives Ron Kirk said at Coalition of Service Industries 2012 Global Services Summit.

“Earlier this year, the Administration concluded a thorough review of the US’ model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). We enhanced transparency and public participation, sharpened the disciplines that address preferential treatment to state—owned enterprises and strengthened protections relating to labour and the environment,” he said.

“With these new policy tools, US negotiators are now advancing efforts to secure high-standard BITs with trading partners such as China and India, as well as Mauritius. We have also resumed exploratory BIT discussions with a number of countries including Ghana, Cambodia, Russia, and the East African Community (EAC),” he added.

Kirk said the US is focused on enhancing services trade through existing agreements. For example, the US-Korea agreement, which is in force, provides new opportunities for US service suppliers in the $580 billion Korean services market.

“Similarly, US investors and service suppliers are starting to take advantage of new opportunities under our recently implemented trade agreement with Colombia,” he said.

Kirk also said direct dialogue is essential for enhancing services trade and investment.

For example, China is the fastest growing auto market in the world. Through bilateral engagement, the US persuaded China to open its market for certain mandatory auto insurance.

“Of course, when negotiations and dialogue are not able to remove discriminatory barriers to trade sufficiently, it may be necessary to utilise appropriate trade enforcement tools.

“In July, a WTO panel agreed with US claims that China’s pervasive and discriminatory measures in the electronic payment services (EPS) sector deny a level playing field to financial services suppliers from the US and other countries,” Kirk said.

China has now accepted the panel’s ruling and the US is working with China to ensure that these practices end, he added.

(This article was published on September 20, 2012)
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