The 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to work toward creating a regional agreement for trade in the Asia-Pacific Region. Participating countries’ ministers and heads of delegation met for four days in December in Singapore where they reported making “substantial progress” toward completion of the agreement.
“Over the course of this meeting, we identified potential ‘landing zones’ for the majority of key outstanding issues in the text,” the delegation reported on the U.S. Trade Representative’s website. “We will continue to work with flexibility to finalize these text issues as well as market access issues.”
Participating countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
The U.S. Trade Representative says the goal is to include additional Asia-Pacific countries in successive clusters to eventually cover a region representing more than 40 percent of world trade.
The United States is participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it will help advance economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the USTR’s office.
“Expanding U.S. exports is critical to our economic recovery and to the creation and retention of high-quality jobs in the United States,” the USTR stated. “With its rapid growth and large markets, there is no region with which expanding our trade is more vital than the Asia-Pacific.”
Key Features of the TPP
According to the USTR, key goals of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement are:
- Comprehensive market access
- A fully regional agreement
- Regulatory coherence
- Competitiveness and business facilitation
- Assistance for small- and medium-sized enterprises
- Promotion of digital and “green” products and services
- Creation of a “living” agreement that can be updated and expanded to meet future needs
In a Nov. 5, 2013, editorial, The New York Times noted that “The United States already has trade agreements with some of these countries, but reaching an agreement will be more complicated with others like Vietnam, which has an authoritarian government and an economy dominated by state-owned firms, and Japan, which has been reluctant to lower barriers to agricultural trade.”
However, Australian trade minister Andrew Robb recently told The Australian that “that the treaty is ‘ready to be sealed. A few big things have to end up back on the table yet, but it is close.’”
The Office of the United States Trade Representative noted that “After 19 rounds, the 12 countries have made significant progress and the negotiations are on an accelerated track toward conclusion of an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.”