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 Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9084
JPY
USD
122.73
GBP
USD
0.6431
CAD
USD
1.2639
INR
USD
63.444

Rates may not be current.