News / Economy

After WTO, Expectations Rise for Trans-Pacific Trade Deal

Trade ministers and representatives attend the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, Dec. 7, 2013.
Trade ministers and representatives attend the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, Dec. 7, 2013.
Reuters
Expectations are growing that an ambitious trade pact between a dozen nations around the Pacific Rim may be wrapped up in two to three months, with signs that political desire for a deal is trumping a string of technical difficulties in drawing it up.
 
Just days after the first World Trade Organization trade reform deal was pushed through on Saturday, trade ministers from 12 countries are in closed-door talks in a Singapore hotel to try to wrap up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
 
An agreement would establish a free-trade bloc stretching from Vietnam to Chile and Japan, encompassing some 800 million people and almost 40 percent of the global economy. More far-reaching than other deals, it would go beyond tariffs on physical trade and try to regulate sensitive areas, such as government procurement, and give companies more rights to sue governments.
 
Just a few months ago a deal looked a long way off, with Japan only entering into the talks in July and many countries at odds over issues ranging from tariffs on farm produce to rules on Internet freedom and state-owned enterprises.
 
However, a push by the United States to try to reach some kind of agreement by the end of the year looks as if it may be starting to pay off. Japan's trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters on Monday that progress was made during talks over dinner on Sunday, and observers say plenty of pre-work for the TPP talks went on during last week's WTO meeting in Bali.
 
“I would like to continue to make efforts toward an agreement by the year-end,” Nishimura said, adding that he planned to hold bilateral talks with the United States later on Monday.
 
Observers say that while an agreement in Singapore by the time the four days of talks end on Tuesday is unlikely, there could be enough impetus to conclude a deal within the next couple of months, even if many technical issues are not finalized.
 
“If they're close enough on the political issues, they could announce a sort of political agreement and say 'we're done', and the last little bits will be resolved on their own,” said Deborah Elms, head of the Temasek Foundation Center for Trade & Negotiations.
 
Sacred Products
 
One sticking point has been Japan's long-stated aim to exempt five politically sensitive farm products - rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar - from the scrapping of tariffs.
 
Nishimura said they are unlikely to move far on that issue. “I've already mentioned the parts we can't budge on, so the issue is what both sides can do based on that,” he said, referring to the bilateral talks between Japan and the U.S. “For my part, I would like the United States to show flexibility.”
 
The TPP negotiations, which have run for three years, have been mired in controversy over a lack of transparency, and slowed by the conflicting interests of the negotiating countries, U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups.
 
No draft of the entire text has been released - a move criticized by campaigners, who say they are being kept in the dark about what's at stake. A leak of a draft chapter on intellectual property, released by Wikileaks last month, revealed a number of serious rifts among the countries, which would have suggested a deal was some way off. However, observers say political maneuvering is likely to see the deal ultimately pushed through.
 
“We are not in a rational zone, we are in a political zone and this agreement has increasingly become one about foreign policy issues and strategic alliances, and making the least worst trade-offs to achieve a final agreement,” said Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland, who is in Singapore to try to observe the talks.
 
The U.S. has also faced roadblocks at home, with Congress complaining about a lack of consultation over the deal and opposing proposed new legislation that would give the White House a freer hand to clinch such trade agreements. Even if a deal is reached within the next few months, it's likely to be some time until it comes into effect.
 
With the U.S. government lacking the ability to “fast track” approval of the deal and mid-term elections coming up next year, it may not be put before Congress for approval until November at the earliest.
 
“Best case scenario is July 1, 2015, and probably more likely is January 1, 2016 for this to come into force,” said Elms at the Temasek Foundation Center.
 
The agreement could also be expanded - last month, South Korea said it planned to join the 12-nation talks soon, while there is also a possibility that China could eventually enter the talks as well.
 
The full list of nations already in the talks is: the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico and Peru.

You May Like

Yemen Brings US, Iran Closer to Naval Face-off

US sending two more ships to waters off coast of Yemen to take part in 'maritime security operations' More

Minorities Become Majority Across US

From 2000 to 2013, minorities became the majority in 78 counties in the United States. Here's where those demographic shifts are happening More

Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

Seven-car 'magnetic levitation' train traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour during test run Tuesday More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9247
JPY
USD
118.78
GBP
USD
0.6657
CAD
USD
1.2190
INR
USD
62.395

Rates may not be current.