U.S., Trans-Pacific Partners Move Toward Trade Deal
By MacKenzie C. Babb
Washington - Trans-Pacific Partnership members took significant steps toward concluding a comprehensive, 21st-century trade agreement during the latest round of negotiations in Melbourne, Australia, according to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
The nine TPP partners "remain on track" in their work to finish the deal, which Kirk said is an important part of President Obama's plan to increase U.S. trade with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.
Kirk's office said in a statement following the March 1-9 talks that "notable progress was made" on cross-cutting trade issues such as "regulatory coherence, better integration of small and medium-sized businesses into international trade, deepening of regional supply linkages between TPP countries, and promoting development."
"Productive exchanges also took place on emerging trade issues such as addressing trade and investment in innovative products and services, including digital technology, and ensuring state-owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies," the statement added.
More than 20 working groups met during the 11th round of negotiations to discuss the legal texts of the agreement, which cover all aspects of commercial relations within the partnership. Additionally, Kirk's office said, members discussed market-access packages and continued work on "high-ambition tariff packages on industrial goods, agricultural products and textiles."
The USTR said more than 250 people from the United States and other partnership members also participated in events in Melbourne.
"On March 4, the Australian government hosted a stakeholder forum, which included presentations by businesses, civil society and academic groups," Kirk's office said. "Separately, the Obama administration has engaged in unprecedented public consultation as it has developed its negotiating positions for the TPP."
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, created in 2006 by Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, seeks to open trade in the Asia-Pacific area to support new jobs, strengthen regional relations and eventually create a free-trade area. It sets modern trade standards, including ensuring worker rights and protecting the environment. In addition to the founding members, participants now include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam.
The negotiating teams have returned to their respective capitals to update their government leaders on the outcome of their work in preparation for the next formal round of negotiations in May.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)