USTR Schwab to probe trade options on Asian trip

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WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) US Trade Representative Susan Schwab will visit Southeast Asia next week to bolster US trade ties and explore ways to push world trade talks to a successful end, the US Trade Representative's office said today.

Schwab will meet in Singapore on Sunday and Monday with economic ministers from the Association of the South East Asian Nations, a group of 10 countries that together are the United States' fifth largest trading partner.

Last year, the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with ASEAN to explore ways to increase trade and investment flows even more. US exports to the 10 countries totaled 57 billion dollar in 2006.

''Southeast Asia is one of the most rapidly growing, economically vibrant regions in the world,'' Schwab said in a statement. ''I look forward to the first formal meeting with my ASEAN colleagues since we signed our TIFA a year ago.'' Schwab also will underscore US concern about ASEAN member Myanmar's recent crackdown on pro-Democracy protesters and urge other ASEAN countries to increase pressure on Myanmar's military regime to begin a peaceful transition to civilian democratic rule, the US Trade Representative's office said.

In addition, Schwab will discuss ''how best to advance the WTO Doha negotiations'' in talks with the ASEAN ministers and both her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, USTR said.

Schwab will become the first US Trade Representative to visit Cambodia when she travels to that country for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday under the US-Cambodia TIFA.

Two-way trade between the United States and Cambodia totaled 2.3 billion dollar in 2006, an increase of 23 per cent relative to 2005.

Schwab will discuss Cambodia's implementation of a bilateral trade agreement with the United States and other commitments it made to open its markets when it joined the World Trade Organization, USTR said.

Reuters PY DB2344

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