The World Trade Organization trade reform deal that was pushed through on Saturday has given hope for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks to reach its final stages in the next 2-3 months. The 12-country negotiations would encompass almost 40% of the world’s economy and affect 800 million people from the stretch of Vietnam to Chile and Japan.
With Japan the last country to join the talks just this July, a final deal looked to be an impossibility especially as the Asian power refused to budge on several tariff issues. However, the United States has been working hard to push for an agreement by the end of the year or in the next few months. The trade ministers from the TPP negotiating countries are currently in closed-door meetings in Singapore to try and hammer out still existing economic conflicts and issues between several members.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice minister at Japan’s Cabinet Office, has taken over negotiations for Japan from Akira Amari after the latter was diagnosed with cancer and is on temporary leave. He said that they have made some progress during Sunday’s talks and will be seeking to have bilateral discussions with the U.S representatives on the sidelines of the meeting. “I would like to continue to make efforts toward an agreement by the year-end,” Nishimura said. He said they will still very unlikely budge on their request for tariff exemptions on five farm products – rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar. They are now looking at the U.S. to exert some flexibility regarding this issue.
Observers believe that reaching a deal after the 4-day talks will be highly unlikely but the next two months may see a final agreement, even as technical details would have to be worked out. The TPP negotiations have been going on for three years but because of conflicting interests between the countries, progress has been really slow. The free trade talks have also been highly criticized for its lack of transparency, as until now the draft text has not been released.
[ via Gulf Times ]