News / Economy

    USTR: Asia-Pacific Trade Talks Enter Final Push for Deal

    FILE - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Aug. 19, 2013. FILE - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Aug. 19, 2013.
    x
    FILE - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Aug. 19, 2013.
    FILE - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Aug. 19, 2013.
    Reuters
    The United States and 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific have begun a final push to reach a landmark trade deal this year and hope for significant progress by an October meeting of leaders in Bali, the top U.S. trade official said on Friday.
     
    “It's not surprising that at the final stage of negotiation, as we enter the end game, [the most sensitive issues] are left on the agenda,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters on his way back from a meeting in Brunei with his counterparts involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.
     
    “But I was impressed by the dedication, the workmanlike attitude of all the delegations and their commitment to work through these issues in order to achieve a comprehensive, ambitious, high-standard 21st-century agreement,” he said.
     
    Froman left open the possibility that the agreement might not eliminate all tariffs between the 12 countries, which include the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
     
    He said a Japanese offer to eliminate 85 percent of tariffs was “a good initial step ... toward a comprehensive agreement.”
     
    Negotiators in Brunei on Friday began their 19th round of talks on the proposed pact following the meeting between Froman and other trade ministers.
     
    The United States is under pressure in the talks to eliminate import restrictions on politically-sensitive products like sugar, dairy, footwear and clothing.
     
    In exchange, its partners would adopt new rules on digital trade and the operations of state-owned enterprises, and bolster protections for workers and the environment.
     
    Froman said the ministers laid out a path for smaller group negotiations leading up to a gathering in Bali in early October, where President Barack Obama will meet with the heads of the other TPP countries.
     
    “It'll be a good opportunity for leaders to get together and ... give direction for any remaining issues to their negotiators,” Froman said.
     
    Time to Roll Up Sleeves
     
    Officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading business group, said they welcomed the push to finish the TPP talks after more than three years of negotiations.
     
    But they warned that the United States should not give ground on priorities like removing barriers to the free flow of digital data across borders, and ensuring that state-owned enterprises operate on a level playing field with private firms, they said.
     
    “We just cannot afford to take the easy way out this time,” said Tami Overby, vice president for Asia at the business group. “If the Asia-Pacific is going to live up to the [business] opportunities that we have in front of us, our governments are going to have to roll up their sleeves and do some very hard work.”
     
    Froman told reporters the United States had not lowered its hopes for the pact.
     
    But he gave few clues how much the Obama administration was willing to dismantle 20th century protections for products like dairy, sugar, footwear and clothing to achieve its goal of negotiating a deal that sets trade rules for this century.
     
    Meanwhile, the White House was facing heat this week for a tobacco trade proposal it is making in the TPP talks.
     
    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday joined public health advocates in complaining that the proposal was not strong enough to prevent tobacco companies from using the pact to challenge anti-smoking measures in the 12 TPP countries.
     
    On the other side, business groups like the U.S. Chamber and the American Farm Bureau Federation said the plan went too far by explicitly stating that nothing in the TPP pact would bar countries from regulating tobacco for public health reasons, instead of relying on a more general protection for regulations that has been used in trade agreements since 1947.
     
    Froman said the proposal strikes “the right balance” between trade and public health interests.
     
    He said it makes clear that countries have the right to regulate tobacco for public health reasons and would not establish a precedent that could hurt exports of other U.S. agricultural products.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8742
    JPY
    USD
    107.09
    GBP
    USD
    0.6893
    CAD
    USD
    1.2820
    INR
    USD
    66.504

    Rates may not be current.