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Trade Ministers Report On TPP Progress

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

13 September 2012


The Trade Ministers of the countries negotiating the extension to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have reported that, since the Leaders’ meeting in Honolulu in November 2011, they have made encouraging headway toward completion of the agreement.

The proposed extension to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now involves 11 countries - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States - that are attempting to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement across the Asia-Pacific region.

The four negotiating rounds since last November, and the many meetings of individual negotiating groups and bilateral meetings to find paths forward on specific issues, are said to have significantly narrowed the gaps between the countries in a wide range of areas, while continuing work on other issues where progress has been slower.

The ministers have pointed to the significant progress on many of the 29 chapters under negotiation, including customs, cross-border services, government procurement, telecommunications, competition policy, small and medium-sized enterprises, competitiveness and business facilitation, and cooperation and capacity building.

The negotiating groups have also moved their work ahead substantially on other issues, including rules of origin, investment, financial services, and temporary entry.

In addition, they confirm that they have continued “to work to construct a high-standard market access package that provides comprehensive duty-free access to each other’s goods markets”.

“The (original) nine teams continued efforts to develop tariff packages that will open our industrial goods, agricultural and textiles markets to one another,” their report adds. “This work is progressing at varying paces for different countries. At the same time, we are developing packages that will provide access to each other’s services, investment, and government procurement markets.”

They continue, however, to make it clear that “further work is needed across the market access negotiations to develop high-standard, balanced packages for each country. We now are focused on developing creative solutions so areas of sensitivity will not compromise the ambition set for this agreement.”

The TPP teams have therefore had discussions on steps toward the construction of a single tariff schedule, and have made considerable progress in the last ten months on agreeing on common rules of origin.

In addition, it is disclosed that promising movement forward has been made toward agreement on regulatory and other non-tariffs barriers, including those related to goods, industrial and agricultural standards “that increasingly are the major barriers that companies face in gaining access to foreign markets,” and on ways to expand the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in regional trade.

Finally, the ministers welcomed the joining of Mexico and Canada to the TPP negotiations and say that they “continue to discuss with other countries their interest in potentially joining the negotiations in the future”. However, their stated priority is to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

In reply, the Leaders’ statement expressed confidence that the goal of “concluding a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes and promotes trade and investment” is within reach, and that the conclusion of the TPP will “provide a promising pathway for free trade across the Asia-Pacific, support the creation and retention of jobs, boost competitiveness, promote economic growth throughout the region and advance development goals”.

They also confirm that they have “directed our negotiating teams to continue discussions with other Asia-Pacific partners that have expressed interest in joining the TPP in order to facilitate their possible future participation.”

TAGS: tax | business | Brunei | Chile | law | tariffs | trade treaty | Australia | Mexico | Singapore | agreements | small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) | Canada | Malaysia | New Zealand | Peru | United States | import duty | trade | Vietnam | services

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