Trans-Pacific Partnership Founders on Dairy, Auto, Drug Issues
Top trade officials from 12 Pacific Rim countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership have broken camp after failing to reach agreement on the proposed trade deal, which, if ratified, would have been the biggest trade deal in history.
Speaking after the Friday breakup of the Hawaii conclave, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman said the 650 negotiators involved had made “significant progress and we will continue to work on resolving a limited number of remaining issues.”
The countries involved “are more confident than ever that TPP is in reach,” he said, declining to say when a future meeting might be scheduled.
According to sources, despite progress on several issues, the talks stalled on several longstanding disagreements, including a clash between New Zealand and Canada over access to that country’s dairy market, and Japan’s reluctance to lower tariff and non-tariff barriers to auto and rice imports.
Also at issue were Washington’s demand for strong, long-term intellectual property protections for so-called “new generation” pharmaceuticals. U.S. drug makers were demanding 12 years of guaranteed IP protection, but Australia wanted a cap at five years with some negotiators working for a compromise of seven or eight years.
The countries in the deal, which also includes Mexico, Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam, encompass an area with a population of 800 million people generating 40 percent of global economic output.
Commenting on the unsuccessful negotiations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant, said, “High tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and other measures at times deny a level playing field for U.S.-made products and services,” adding that “a web of trade agreements has spread across the region, providing advantages for participating nations while the U.S. is often stuck on the outside, looking in.”
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb told the press after the marathon meeting adjourned that the problem lay with the ‘Big Four’ economies involved in the talks, namely the U.S., Canada, Japan and Mexico. “The sad thing is that 98 percent [of a complete trade deal] had been concluded,” he said.
“The TPP negotiations have long presented a lot of hope for manufacturers in the United States and the millions of jobs they impact,” said Linda Dempsey, Vice President of International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “If done right, this agreement has the potential to boost U.S. manufacturing growth and global competitiveness. While we are disappointed that a final, comprehensive TPP could not be reached this week, we are hopeful this latest round of talks has identified areas of further agreement and that plans are underway to overcome roadblocks.”
The failure to craft a successful transpacific trade accord is seen as a major blow to the Obama Administration’s so-called ‘Asia pivot’ strategy to balance China’s increasing economic and political influence in Asia.