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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8982
JPY
USD
121.07
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.2215
INR
USD
63.612

Rates may not be current.