Talks on the complex and controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are said to be nearing completion as top negotiators from 12 nations gathered Friday in Hawaii. Trade ministers will join the talks next Tuesday in an effort to resolve remaining issues.
If completed, the TPP would cut tariffs and trade barriers among participants, something supporters say would boost economic growth.
The TPP nations are Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and the United States which together make up about 40 percent of the global economy.
In the United States, critics of TPP include environmentalists, and unions who say the deal would do too little to protect human rights, the environment and U.S. jobs.
Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO union said the TPP "is full of stuff that is bad for working people, bad for the environment, bad for food safety."
Previous trade deals cut tariffs on imports with the idea that making trade cheaper would spark more exchanges and boost economic growth.
This new deal cuts conflicting rules and laws that make it difficult for goods from one nation to be sold in another.
U.S. critics say harmonizing labor standards and environmental laws might weaken hard-won worker protections in the United States or other nations. Unions worry that weak labor rights protections in some U.S. trading partners would keep production costs low and encourage companies to move more jobs out of the United States to low-wage nations.
An expert in Asian economic issues, Charles Morrison, said TPP is a “very complicated negotiation” and the outcome is “far from certain.” But Morrison, who is president of the East-West Center in Hawaii, said there is “a lot of political will” on the part of many nations pushing for a deal.
In a VOA interview, Morrison cautioned that even if a deal is made by negotiators, each nation will still put it through an approval process, including the Senate in the United States.
He said the results of negotiated “give and take” are likely to disappoint some business groups, environmental activists or others who wish officials had driven a harder bargain. He said without some “give,” however, there will be no “take” in any negotiation.
Morrison said failing to make a deal would deny consumers in many countries the benefits of lower cost, more efficient trade. He said many of these nations already do considerable trading, and some have bilateral trade agreements, so reaching a deal may not mean huge changes.
News accounts say many issues remain to be worked out, including disputes between Washington and Tokyo over auto parts and rice imports, and other squabbles over access to Canadian markets for agriculture products from other nations.
Trade ministers are scheduled to hold a concluding press conference next Friday (7/31) to announce the results of what is likely to be a week of hard bargaining behind closed doors.