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Latest Round of TPP Talks Sees New Offers on State-Owned Enterprises, Labor

Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The ninth round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement concluded Oct. 28 in Peru as the nine participating countries worked to reach the broad outlines of an agreement by the time the leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum members hold their annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Hawaii. The TPP is being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

According to a statement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, during the most recent talks negotiators “made further considerable progress on the legal texts of the agreement as well as on the cross-cutting issues of small and medium-sized enterprises, regulatory coherence, competitiveness, and development.” However, USTR acknowledged that “further domestic consultation” is needed to “move toward closure of a number of chapters” and that “on more complex and sensitive chapters countries need more time to find convergence.” According to International Trade Daily, one official indicated that these chapters include intellectual property rights, investment and market access.

The ninth round saw the U.S. put forward a new proposed text on state-owned enterprises that is “intended to help level the playing field for U.S. exporters and workers by addressing distortions to trade and competition that result from unfair advantages governments provide to these enterprises.” While USTR said there were “constructive initial discussions” on this topic, Vietnam reportedly argued that a chapter on this issue is unnecessary. The U.S. also tabled new text on labor and according to USTR “the teams had a productive exchange on this issue as well.”

In related news, Kyodo News reported Oct. 28 that Japan plans to announce at the APEC leaders’ meeting its intent to join the TPP negotiations. However, whether to participate has been a contentious issue in Japan, due largely to the agricultural industry’s concern about trade liberalization, and some observers say no final decision has yet been made.

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