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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7893
JPY
USD
107.68
GBP
USD
0.6238
CAD
USD
1.1214
INR
USD
61.185

Rates may not be current.