[A2k] FT: US warns TPP deal could miss deadline

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Oct 8 03:05:42 PDT 2013


October 8, 2013 8:44 am

US warns TPP deal could miss deadline

By Ben Bland in Nusa Dua, Bali

The chief US trade negotiator has warned that the US and 11 other countries
negotiating a potentially transformative Asia-Pacific trade pact may fail
to reach an agreement by their “ambitious” year-end deadline.

Mike Froman, the US trade representative, told reporters on Tuesday that
there had been “substantial progress” following the conclusion of the
latest round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership but that
there were “remaining issues to be addressed”.

“The goal is to complete negotiations by the end of the year,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of positive momentum. It’s an ambitious goal, [but] there
still remain a number of outstanding items and, ultimately, the substance
will drive the timetable.”

Mr Froman also sought to reassure US companies and lobby groups such as the
National Association of Manufacturers, who have expressed
concerns<http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/343f20c2-2662-11e3-8ef6-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl>that
political expediency might drive the Obama administration to agree to
a diluted trade pact.

“We’re not going to agree to a bad deal just for the sake of meeting a
deadline,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific leaders’
forum in Bali, Indonesia.

The leaders of the TPP countries, meeting on Tuesday afternoon without US
President Barack Obama, who cancelled because of the US government
shutdown<http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6620d092-2e8a-11e3-be22-00144feab7de.html>,
are expected to release a statement on the status of the talks later.

The TPP, which includes countries involved in a third of the world’s trade,
is at the heart of the Obama administration’s second term agenda to promote
exports and create jobs and, has been billed as a “21st century trade deal”
aimed at setting new high standards for investment, intellectual property
and labour rights as well as reducing tariff barriers.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who decided to join the TPP talks
earlier this year, has also put the prospective trade pact at the heart of
his “Abenomics” strategy to revitalise the ailing Japanese economy, using
it to drive reforms<http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/617ab352-2f41-11e3-ae87-00144feab7de.html>in
long-protected sectors such as agriculture and healthcare.

Some Japanese lawmakers and lobby groups have expressed strong opposition
to opening up these areas to international competition and negotiators and
leaders have acknowledged that all countries have “red lines” they are
unable to cross.

Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, warned at the Bali meeting on
Monday that the TPP participants will struggle to reach the year-end
deadline and that he had a few “areas of great concern” where the agreement
would conflict with sovereign issues.

Mr Froman said that the tough remaining issues for negotiating countries –
which also include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, New
Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam – included provisions on intellectual
property rights, forcing state-owned enterprises to operate on a level
playing field and common labour and environmental standards.

But Mr Froman, who has been operating with a “slimmed-down crew” because of
the US shutdown, also warned that countries tended to play their cards
close to their chest until the very last moment.

“As you know in these trade agreements, nothing is agreed to until
everything is agreed to,” he said.



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