Washington Trade Daily
Volume 21, Number 246 Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Trade Reports International Group
Closing In On a TPP Deal
Singapore – Trade ministers from the 12 members of the TransPacific Partnership pushed hard yesterday for convergence on three critical areas – intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises and the environment – in an effort to finalize an agreement on modalities, WTD has learned (WTD, 12/9/13).
Except for a single member of the group, there is a general consensus to work on the basis of latest texts that departed from what was set out in last month’s Salt Lake City chief negotiators meeting, said participants familiar with the proceedings yesterday.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text.
Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country, WTD was told. The latest intellectual property draft is premised on very high standards regardless of differing levels of economic development among the participating countries. To enable developing countries to implement the WTO-plus standards, the draft provides a generous transition clause. But the 12 have yet to finalize how the transition period will be determined – whether on the basis of economic and social indicators prepared by the World Bank or another criterion, WTD was told.
On state-owned enterprises – relating particularly to small and medium enterprises – the TPP members are close to agreement, WTD was told. But several members have difficulties with the problem of “competitive neutrality” to mitigate distortions caused by subsidies and preferential treatment.
On the environment, the TPP trade ministers have overcome differences that arose in the Salt Lake City talks. WTD was told that the chapter is based broadly on US proposals.
The meeting – which will conclude today – will set the ground for finalizing a “modalities” text which will become the basis for further negotiations towards clinching the final TPP pact sometime next year, said participants. The “modalities” text on market access will depend to a great extent on what happens between the United States and Japan, which are still far apart on market access, particularly US access to Japan’s agricultural and automotive markets.
A final pact can be concluded after another two or three rounds, WTD.