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TPP Countries Cite “Substantial Progress” but Miss 2013 Deadline

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The latest round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership yielded “substantial progress,” the 12 participants said Dec. 10, but not enough to meet the longstanding goal of concluding an agreement by the end of 2013. Negotiators said that following additional work in the coming weeks they plan to meet again in January, though no specific date or location was given. Some observers say the talks could wrap up as early as March.

A joint press release states that TPP participants have “identified potential ‘landing zones’ for the majority of key outstanding issues in the text” and “will continue to work with flexibility to finalize these text issues as well as market access issues.” However, press reports say that two recently leaked documents show that in the run-up to this week’s talks in Singapore significant differences remained on a number of sensitive issues, including intellectual property rights, the scope of an investor-state dispute settlement provision, and disciplines on state-owned enterprises. U.S. officials said they cannot verify the “authorship or authenticity” of the documents, which include elements that are “outdated” or “totally inaccurate.”

In addition, the U.S. and Japan have yet to make much headway in the bilateral negotiations taking place alongside the TPP talks, including on lowering Japan’s tariffs on imported agricultural products. “In our view, there has not been a proposal of sufficiently meaningful market access consistent with the goals of TPP that are comprehensive and ambitious,” a Wall Street Journal article quoted U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman as saying. A Japanese minister responded that his country cannot “give one millimeter” on this issue and that the U.S. should show “flexibility.”

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