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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8916
JPY
USD
121.32
GBP
USD
0.6487
CAD
USD
1.3252
INR
USD
66.401

Rates may not be current.