Lima Talks on Trans-Pacific Pact Make Progress Toward 2013 GoalFriday, May 31, 2013 > 09:46:03
The eleven countries currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement have continued to make advances toward their goal of completing a deal by year’s end, officials said after the 17th round of talks, held in Lima, Peru last week. Japan is set to formally join the negotiations by late July.
Following the 10-day talks, which were held from 15-24 May, negotiators reported that they had made progress "across the agreement," according to a statement by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
The areas that saw significant work, officials said, were services, government procurement, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, labour and dispute settlement. Other areas that also reported progress were e-commerce, technical barriers to trade, financial services, and investment, among others.
Some of the more difficult areas of the talks, such as intellectual property and environment, also yielded "productive discussions," the USTR statement said.
The eleven current TPP countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam. While Japan has been welcomed into the group as its twelfth member, it has yet to formally join the talks, as current members are still completing their necessary domestic procedures.
2013 deadline still in focus, officials say
TPP countries have said that they hope to conclude an accord by the end of this year, possibly even in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting this October in Bali, Indonesia. Some trade observers have speculated, however, that this goal could be overly optimistic, particularly given the impending entry of Japan into the group.
However, officials from current member countries maintain that the end-2013 deadline is still in reach, and that they are continuing their work with that timeframe in mind.
"We have been negotiating now for three years so we are well along in the negotiations and we’d like to move towards conclusion as quickly as we can," chief US negotiator Barbara Weisel told Dow Jones Newswires. Peru’s chief negotiator, Edgar Vazquez, has similarly said that the process is likely to remain on track, even with Japan joining the negotiations.
Japan entry expected toward end of next round
Negotiators announced on Friday that they would be holding their next round of talks from 15-25 July, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, having added on an additional day to the planned discussions in order for Japan to have more time to participate. How to help integrate the incoming member into future rounds of talks was also a topic of discussion during this latest gathering, negotiators said.
Tokyo officials have indicated that the Asian economy – the world’s third largest – will be able to take part in the TPP talks from 23 July onward, as that is when the US’ 90-day consultation period with Congress ends. The consultations are a required part of Washington’s domestic procedures with regards to trade negotiations.
Trade observers and officials alike expect Japan’s entry to have a noticeable impact on the process, given both the scale of its economy – among TPP members, it is outranked in size only by the US - and its negotiating interests. Agriculture, for instance, has traditionally been a sensitive topic for Japan, and many have wondered what concessions Japan may be asked to make in this area – particularly by countries such as the US, Australia, and New Zealand, which all have interests in this sector.
Tokyo officials, such as Economic Revitalisation Minister Akira Amari, who is also tasked with his country’s participation in the talks, told reporters on Friday that Japan will be able to "assume the offensive" in market access negotiations, given that those chapters have not yet been concluded.