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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9113
JPY
USD
124.00
GBP
USD
0.6404
CAD
USD
1.3130
INR
USD
63.752

Rates may not be current.