KUALA LUMPUR - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the 12 nations negotiating the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal have made "good progress" toward reaching a final agreement, but that some details remain to be worked out.
Kerry highlighted a series of goals for the pact as he spoke during a visit to Singapore, saying the deal would not only create economic opportunities for the countries involved, but also serve as a show of support for "good governance, transparency and accountability."
Kerry is in Southeast Asia to stress the importance of U.S. trade and investment and links to prosperity for the Asian and U.S. economies. He arrived late Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, where he will attend the ASEAN forum Wednesday.
Negotiations on the so-called TPP have stretched on for years, and last week trade ministers failed to agree on a final pact during talks in Hawaii.
If completed, it could cover 40 percent of the global economy.
Kerry said the TPP would raise standards by calling for compliance with international labor and environmental standards, for state-owned companies to compete fairly with the private sector, and for businesses to refrain from the use of underage workers or unsafe work places.
"It will bear witness to what we have seen in both Singapore and the United States, that sustainable development and prosperity are nurtured by the freedom to innovate, experiment and compete economically on a level and open playing field," he said.
Kerry also tapped into President Barack Obama's new plan to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, saying the solution to climate change is transforming energy policy and that the issue represented "an enormous economic opportunity."
"Climate change is a crisis that waits for no one and it respects no border, but there is still time for us, according to scientists, to cut greenhouse gases and prevent the worst consequences still from happening," Kerry said.
"And anyone who tells you otherwise is just plain wrong and not operating off of scientific fact," he added.
While in the region, another focal point for Kerry will be the South China Sea maritime dispute.
China has been creating artificial islands in waters where Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines have overlapping claims.
“The way you get a resolution about the South China Sea dispute, short of full-blown conflict, is if China decides it is too damaging to its own image as a responsible rising power,” said analyst Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.