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U.S. Sees “Strong Momentum” as Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks Continue

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. trade officials reported varying degrees of progress following the 17th round of talks on a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which concluded May 24 in Peru. The U.S. is currently negotiating the TPP with ten other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – and Japan is expected to formally join at the end of the next round, which is scheduled to be held in Malaysia July 15-25. Participants are working to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year.

A press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative indicated that the most progress in the latest negotiations came on the issues of services, government procurement, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, trade remedies, labor and dispute settlement. There was also forward movement, though apparently not as much, on technical barriers to trade, e-commerce, rules of origin, investment, financial services, transparency and other issues. Finally, on “the more challenging issues” of intellectual property, competition and the environment, USTR said negotiators “had productive discussions and agreed on next steps to continue their work.” Substantive work on customs, telecommunications, regulatory coherence and development was wrapped up during the last round of talks in March.

USTR said participants also made progress on “building the comprehensive packages that will provide access to their respective markets for industrial, agricultural and textile and apparel products, services and investment, and government procurement.” Work on rules of origin reflected “input from stakeholders on how best to promote trade and regional integration,” which has covered topics such as cumulation and the yarn-forward proposal for apparel products put forth by the U.S.

Finally, USTR said, the TPP countries discussed plans for smoothly integrating Japan into the negotiations once all current members’ domestic processes have concluded. That could be as early as July 23, when the 90-day congressional consultation period in the U.S. expires. As a result, Japan could participate in the final two days of the next round of talks.

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