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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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
0.8896
JPY
USD
119.26
GBP
USD
0.6475
CAD
USD
1.2451
INR
USD
61.816

Rates may not be current.