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Negotiators Report Further Progress at Latest TPP Round

Monday, March 18, 2013

Negotiators Report Further Progress at Latest TPP Round

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative indicated in a March 13 press release that the 11 countries that are currently involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations achieved significant progress at the 16th round of talks held this month in Singapore. The USTR noted that the parties achieved the goal of putting the negotiations “on an accelerated track toward conclusion of a next-generation, comprehensive agreement in the 2013 time frame envisioned by President Obama and the Leaders of the ten other TPP countries.”

According to U.S. Chief Negotiator and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel, TPP negotiators intensified their drive at the Singapore round to “find mutually-acceptable paths forward on the remaining issues in the legal texts of the agreement” and “succeeded in finding solutions to many issues in a wide range of areas such as customs, telecommunications, investment, services, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property, regulatory coherence, development, and other issues.” As a result of this progress, the negotiating groups on customs, telecommunications, regulatory coherence and development will not meet again to discuss the legal texts. Instead, any remaining work in these areas will be addressed in late-stage rounds as the agreement is finalized. According to the USTR, this will enable negotiators to focus on tough issues in the areas of intellectual property, competition and the environment.

The parties also advanced the negotiations in the areas of market access for goods, services and investment, and government procurement. According to the USTR, “productive exchanges occurred on tariff packages on industrial goods, agriculture, and textiles, as well as on rules of origin and how best to promote the development of regional supply chains in order to benefit companies based in the United States and the other TPP countries.” The parties also agreed to conduct additional intersessional work to build on market access advances.

The TPP trade ministers are scheduled to meet in mid-April on the margins of the APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Indonesia to discuss progress achieved to date and provide further guidance to negotiators. The 17th round of talks will be held in Lima, Peru, on May 15-24. The USTR indicates that high-level officials will become more engaged in the process as the discussions draw to a close. 

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