[Ip-health] New York Times: As Pacific Trade Negotiators Haggle, U.S. Officials Remain Hopeful
thiru at keionline.org
Sun Oct 4 19:22:34 PDT 2015
By JACKIE CALMES
OCTOBER 4, 2015
ATLANTA — The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations neared
agreement on Sunday night on the largest regional trade accord in history,
a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker
standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from
Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.
Final haggling over the arcane details of opening dairy markets to
competition delayed the announcement that trade ministers promised for
Sunday. But United States government officials said they were confident
that a deal was imminent after nearly eight years of negotiations —
including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — and negotiators from
other countries echoed that confidence.
If it comes together, the Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of
debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’
Several potentially deal-breaking disputes besides the dairy details kept
the ministers talking through the weekend, and forced the repeated delays
of a celebratory announcement. Final compromises covered commercial
protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, liberalized trade in sugar
and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s
autos sold in North America.
The negotiators postponed action on ending tariffs and opening the
participating countries to each other’s dairy exports until the
pharmaceutical drug issue was resolved. But they appear to have
miscalculated how long it would take to settle questions involving the
politically powerful dairy industries in Canada, New Zealand, the United
States and other countries.
The parties to the accord also include Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore
In a concession likely to be problematic with key Republicans, the United
States agreed that brand-name pharmaceutical companies would have a period
shorter than the current 12 years to keep secret their data on producing
so-called biologics, which are advanced medicines made from living
Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,
which has jurisdiction over trade, has threatened to withdraw his support
for the accord if United States negotiators agree to loosening
pharmaceutical industry protections from those in federal law.
But arrayed against the United States, which said the protection was a
necessary incentive for drug makers to innovate, were virtually every other
country at the table, led by Australia. The generic drug industry and
nonprofit health groups also strenuously opposed the United States
position, pressing for access within five years to the data to speed
lower-priced “biosimilars” to market. The compromise is a hybrid that
protects companies’ data for five years to eight years.
Only once that intellectual property issue was settled did several nations
including Canada, New Zealand and the United States turn to the dairy
The trade ministers have settled much, especially in recent months, and
those agreements — filling 30 separate chapters — are what kept the
negotiators from giving up in recent days on reaching a conclusion.
The agreement also would overhaul special tribunals that handle trade
disputes between businesses and participating nations. The changes would
respond to widespread criticisms that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement
panels favor businesses and interfere with nations’ efforts to pass rules
safeguarding public health and safety.
Among new provisions, a code of conduct would govern lawyers selected for
arbitration panels. And tobacco companies would be excluded, to end the
practice of using the panels to sue countries that pass antismoking laws.
Even if an agreement is reached, Mr. Obama cannot sign the accord until
Congress has 90 days to review the pact’s details.
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