The trade ministers from the 12 countries that are part of the United States-led Trans Pacific Partnership failed to reach a final agreement after their four-day ministerial meeting in Singapore. However, they indicated that they were close to finalizing the landmark agreement that will bring together almost one-third of the world’s economy under one umbrella of free trade deals.
The ministers’ statement issued on Tuesday said that they were able to make “substantial progress” in dealing with the most tricky parts of the agreement and that they have identified “potential landing zones” for the issues preventing them from finalizing the deal. They are set to meet again next month. Washington would have wanted the TPP deal to be finalized by the end of the year, but it seems that conflicting interests from the different countries, particularly in the areas of agricultural products, environmental protection and intellectual property.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that all 12 countries are committed to reaching a “high-standard” agreement and so it is not an easy process. The negotiators are looking at reduced or almost zero tariffs for goods and services as well as a level playing field for foreign companies and state-owned corporations, particularly in developing countries like Vietnam and Malaysia that have huge state-owned entities. They also want to ensure the elimination of counterfeit products from the open market to ensure quality. This agreement is part of U.S. President Barack Obama‘s foreign policy pivot towards Asia. Any final deal however would have to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. To make the process easier, the administration is looking at having Congress pass a legislation that would give the government authority to negotiate trade deals that would then have to be approved or rejected, but cannot be changed.
[ via News Day ]