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Momentum For Trans-Pacific Partnership

by Mary Swire,,Hong Kong

18 November 2010

Meeting recently on the margins of the APEC meeting in Yokohama, the leaders of the countries participating in negotiations for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) welcomed the solid progress made so far in the talks aimed at negotiating the regional trade deal, and resolved to seek to conclude the ambitious agreement as swiftly as possible.

In a statement, the leaders of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US and Vietnam “reaffirmed their objective of negotiating a high-standard agreement and one that addresses new and emerging trade issues and the 21st century challenges their businesses and workers face.”

The leaders noted that, with the negotiations well underway, the TPP is now the most advanced pathway to Asia-Pacific regional economic integration. With the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan participating in the meeting as an observer, they also reiterated their goal of expanding the initial group of countries to other countries across the region.

In that respect, Malaysia was formally welcomed into the negotiations, and Vietnam was applauded for the completion of its domestic procedures to enable it to participate in the TPP as a full member. The leaders also expressed gratification at the interest of other Asia-Pacific countries in joining the agreement and directed that talks proceed as soon as possible with these countries, which could lay the groundwork for their future participation.

After the meeting, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, said that “the TPP is clearly where the action is on Asia-Pacific trade. TPP has momentum. Vietnam's President has announced they will become a full participant in the negotiation, Malaysia has just joined the group, and Japan's Prime Minister Kan, who signalled strong interest in TPP at APEC, sat in on our meeting today."

"It was clear from today's discussion that the nine leaders are strongly committed to TPP as a way to accelerate integration in our region. This is about growth and about jobs. Our ultimate goal is a region-wide free trade deal."

New Zealand hosts the next round of TPP negotiations in Auckland from December 6. Key added that he wants “the Auckland round to deliver a strong platform for the intensive negotiations scheduled for 2011.”

However, some observers are less than enthusiastic about the increased prospects for the TPP as, while the prospective TPP members are all members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), it is not classified as an APEC initiative or on its agenda.

As the US will host the APEC summit in November 2011, when a final agreed text of the TPP agreement could be available, many believe that the TPP should be immediately opened to all APEC member countries, including a China that is already suspicious of the US government’s intentions of, possibly, using a TPP trade bloc against it.

President Barack Obama has made it clear that the US intends to conclude the TPP negotiations in order to create a “21st century” agreement, covering not only trade but also other issues, such as, for example, small business priorities, regulatory coherence, and other issues that reflect the way businesses operate. The TPP is being seen by some as a launch pad, concentrated solely on the Obama Administration’s intention to increase American exports to the Asia-Pacific and create employment in the US.

TAGS: tax | Brunei | Chile | law | tariffs | trade treaty | Australia | China | Singapore | agreements | Malaysia | New Zealand | Peru | United States | trade | Japan | Vietnam

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