[Ip-health] FT: US trade chief says Pacific deal is close

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jan 27 08:03:13 PST 2015


January 27, 2015 3:38 pm
US trade chief says Pacific deal is close

Shawn Donnan in Washington

An ambitious Pacific Rim trade pact between the US, Japan and 10 other
economies is nearing completion, the top US trade official said on Tuesday
as the Obama administration stepped up its campaign
secure congressional authority to conclude a deal.

The comments from Mike Froman, the US trade representative, are another
sign that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership
which would cover 40 per cent of global economic output, is coming closer
to fruition after more than five years of negotiations.

Chief negotiators from the 12 TPP countries are meeting in New York this
week while officials from the US and Japan are due to meet separately in
Washington to try to conclude their own bilateral discussions over
agricultural products and cars.

“The contours of a final [TPP] agreement are coming into focus,” Mr Froman
was set to tell committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives
on Tuesday according to excerpts of his remarks released by his office.

Mr Froman has refused repeatedly to set a target for concluding the TPP
negotiations, insisting that the content of a deal would determine timing.
But people close to the talks say the US is determined to wrap them up in
the first half of 2015 so as to put an agreement before Congress for a vote
before the campaign for the 2016 US presidential election heats up.

John Key, New Zealand’s prime minister, said his discussions with Mr Froman
and other TPP leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week led
him to believe a deal was at hand.

“There seems to be strong feeling that a successful TPP could be negotiated
in the first half of this year,” Mr Key said
“There was more confidence the TPP will be concluded than the US-Europe
[trade agreement] and the view expressed to me by Mike Froman was that they
really felt they were getting quite close.”

In his testimony to Congress on Tuesday Mr Froman said “important progress’
had been made in the TPP negotiations over market access and in addressing
issues such as intellectual property, digital trade and the treatment of
state-owned enterprises.

He also reiterated President Barack Obama’s call in his State of the Union
address last week for the administration to be given what is formally known
as Trade Promotion Authority.

The US Constitution gives Congress domain over international commerce. But
ever since Richard Nixon the legislature has delegated the authority to
negotiate trade agreements to presidents, setting broad goals and promising
to hold simple up-or-down votes within 90 days on any pact brought before

That authority last expired in 2007 and Mr Obama needs it again in order to
conclude both the TPP and a slower-moving negotiation with the European
Union over an even bigger potential agreement.

Republicans now in control of Congress have indicated they are willing to
give what is more commonly known as “fast-track” authority to the
president. Such a move faces opposition from many Democrats, but business
groups still expect it to pass through Congress in the coming weeks.

Mr Froman said the Obama administration’s trade push was part of its
efforts to help boost the US economy and create higher-paying jobs at a
time when stagnant wages and rising inequality are top of the political

“These efforts have contributed greatly to America’s economic comeback,” Mr
Froman said. US exports had grown nearly 50 per cent since 2009, reaching a
record high of $2.3tn in 2013 and supporting 11.3m jobs, he said.

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