TPP Stalls on Agriculture, Autos and Drugs; More Talks Could Come Later This Month
Negotiators were unable to conclude a free trade agreement among a dozen Asia-Pacific countries last week due to continued disagreements on a handful of tough issues. Talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership could resume by the end of August as participants seek to finalize a deal ahead of election cycles in key countries that could delay further progress.
Officials said the most recent negotiations in Hawaii were “productive” and yielded “significant progress,” with several chapters closed and most of the TPP text now agreed. However, there was minimal movement on the most politically sensitive issues, including expanded access to Canada’s dairy market, the U.S. sugar market and Japan’s rice market, the length of time that test data for biologic medicines should be protected, and rules of origin for automotive products. Negotiators will “continue their intensive engagement to find common ground” on the “limited number of remaining issues,” officials said, adding that “in this last stage of negotiations [they are] more confident than ever that TPP is in reach.”
The next opportunity to finalize the TPP could be the Aug. 22-25 meeting of ASEAN trade ministers in Malaysia. The White House would then have to wait 90 days to submit the agreement to Congress, which under the recently enacted trade promotion authority law would have a limited amount of time to review and then vote on it. As a result, observers say that if the TPP is not concluded within the next few weeks it may not have a chance to pass Congress before the 2016 presidential election season begins to heat up.