News / Economy

Q&A: What Are Prospects for Pacific Rim Trade Talks?

Victor Beattie
Trade ministers from the 12 nations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) gather for a four-day meeting in Singapore starting Saturday to hammer out an agreement on trade negotiations.
 
In addition to the host country, negotiators from Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States and Vietnam will tackle such issues as tariff elimination and intellectual property rights. 

Victor Beattie spoke with two analysts familiar with the issues within the TPP -  Charles Morrison is president of the Hawaii-based East-West Institute and economist Song Seng-wun is with Singapore-based CIMB Research:
 
BEATTIE: U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman indicated this week that the issues of environmental standards and loss of jobs are overblown – something that maybe happened 20 years ago, but not in 2014.

MORRISON: He may well be right, but many people believe otherwise. In the environmental area, for example, there are basically two points of view. One view is that you can use the free trade agreements to promote environmental protections, and that is the administration’s argument there. But the other view is that you have to hold out for even tougher environmental protections, and so it depends in part whether you see the glass half-empty or half-full.

BEATTIE: What about in Asia, what are the concerns there?

SONG: Cost is only one issue. It’s about tariffs the level of services, the commitment to changes in how businesses are run, you know – all these things. I think these issues are quite close and dear to the U.S. negotiation team, but I think it's probably a bit more ambitious than what some of the members around the table are comfortable with.

BEATTIE: Are the ambitions of the Americans going to impact these negotiations? Will they torpedo these talks?

MORRISON: Well I wouldn't say torpedo, but it makes Mr. Froman’s challenges all the much greater. Negotiating partners don't want to go to their publics and industries and make concessions unless they're sure they're going to get something from the U.S. side.

BEATTIE: In an interview with a Chinese media group this week, Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said TPP negotiators are "very close" to completing the agreement.  Is he right?

SONG:  Certainly, the Singapore PM is cautiously optimistic, but I think voices from around the region – especially from the Malaysian side – indicate we are still far from a deal.  TPP isn’t, you know, your everyday trade deal.  It is at a much higher level, and I suppose encompasses not just trade, but services that are very wide reaching.  I suspect some sort of watered down commitment to talk could still be agreed upon.
 
BEATTIE:
 What about from the North American side?

MORRISON: Well there’s a lot of hope that it will wrapped up this year, but we have experienced with other very large scale free trade agreements like the Proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas that they negotiated for 10 years, but were never able to wrap up. So it's like an opera; they say it's never over until the fat lady sings. We haven't seen that yet.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9220
JPY
USD
119.88
GBP
USD
0.6757
CAD
USD
1.2640
INR
USD
62.626

Rates may not be current.