[Ip-health] FT: Trade talks fail to break TPP deadlock

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Jul 31 23:59:47 PDT 2015


August 1, 2015 5:19 am

Trade talks fail to break TPP deadlock

Shawn Donnan, World Trade Editor

US-led plans to seal a landmark Pacific Rim trade deal by the end of this
year suffered a major blow on Friday as trade ministers from the 12
countries involved failed to break deadlocks on key issues, potentially
complicating further the politics of an already controversial project.

This week’s gathering in Hawaii of ministers from the US, Japan and the 10
other economies involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership had been billed
as a final negotiating round for what would be the biggest trade agreement
sealed anywhere in the world in two decades.

But the efforts to close the TPP, which would cover 40 per cent of the
global economy, were held up by disagreements over how much market access
to give on sensitive products including dairy and sugar and a dispute over
intellectual property rules for new generations of pharmaceuticals.

Ministers insisted on Friday that they had made significant progress and
were closer than they had ever been to closing the TPP, which has already
been the subject of more than five years of intense negotiation. People
close to the talks insisted that significant progress had been made this
week on issues ranging from geographic appellations for products to the
outlines of a new investment protection regime designed to address critics’
concerns and an environment chapter that would make the trade in endangered
species more difficult.

“We are more confident than ever that TPP is within reach,” Mike Froman,
the US trade representative, told reporters.

“With the next meeting I believe all the problems will be resolved,” said
Akira Amari, Japan’s economy minister.

The timing of that next meeting was unclear, however. Some reports pointed
to a gathering not being held until as late as November, in part because
elections are due in Canada in October and Ottawa’s reluctance to remove
trade barriers protecting its politically-sensitive dairy industry
represents one of the major sticking points.

Such a slip in timing will complicate the US politics surrounding the TPP
as well, by making it increasingly likely that any congressional debate to
ratify an agreement would now be held during the 2016 presidential election
year. Most Republican candidates — bar Donald Trump — support President
Barack Obama’s efforts to seal the TPP. But he faces significant opposition
from within his own party and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner,
this week again sought to distance herself from the deal, arguing that as
secretary of state in Mr Obama’s first term she had no responsibility for
its pursuit.

The Obama administration, which won a bitter fight to obtain the
“fast-track” powers it needed from Congress earlier this summer, had been
hoping to conclude negotiations this week in order to get a deal to the
legislature by the end of the year.

But even before this week’s meeting administration officials were conceding
that target was already highly ambitious and reliant on nothing going wrong.

Business groups sought to put a positive spin on this week’s negotiations,
pointing to the progress made. The US Chamber of Commerce said it believed
the TPP remained a “worthy objective”. “We urge the negotiators to continue
pressing forward toward the goal of a truly comprehensive agreement that
will drive economic growth and job creation at home and among our
partners,” it said in a statement.

But environmental groups and other critics leapt on the failure to close
the deal as a sign that it was foundering and looking increasingly

“This ministerial was viewed as a do-or-die moment to inject momentum into
the TPP process, so this Maui meltdown in part reflects how controversial
the TPP is in many of the involved nations and how little latitude
governments feel to make concessions to get a deal,” said Lori Wallach, a
longtime activist and trade sceptic for Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen.

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