Pacific trade deal talks stretch into third day in Atlanta

Trans-Pacific Partnership deal talks attended by trade ministers from 12 Pacific countries has been extended for third day in Atlanta to achieve agreement on largest regional free-trade pact ever

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting pose in the TPP Ministers family photo in Atlanta

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in Atlanta were extended for a third day, after the United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman asked the ministers from Pacific countries to stay through Friday in order to wrap up an agreement.

The TPP free trade deal, the world's largest one, is aimed at liberalising markets in 12 countries from around the Pacific - the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei- which make about 40 percent of the world economy.

Last week, officials from the United States said enough process has been made to reach a deal, stressing that the talks in Atlanta might be the final round.

According to Reuters, a person who attended the meetings said on Thursday, “It's complicated, but we are continuing with the aim of achieving an agreement. By the late evening we could have clarity."

The last round of talks which were held in Hawaiian island of Maui on July 21, had ended in disappointment as the differences over farm exports, auto parts and monopoly periods for next-generation drugs, kept the Pacific Rim trade ministers from reaching the elusive final deal.

A senior counsel at Dentons law firm in Washington, DC Alan Wolff said, there are “no hidden issues” this time and added that they have a “reason for optimism still.”

The Canadian International Trade Minister, Ed Fast also said: "What I can say is that Canada is prepared to negotiate, to stay here until we have a deal."

"We believe we are on track to do so."

Also Mexican Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo said on Thursday "No one wants to leave without an agreement… The good news is that we will not leave here without one."

Observers pointed to progress on autos, Canada's pledge to compensate farmers hurt by imports and signs of a possible compromise on patent protection for new drugs as evidence of advancement - although that remained a key sticking point.

"We are starting to see the path to an agreement and have agreed to make final efforts," Japanese Economy Minister, Akira Amari told reporters.

However, a group of people, including some from Japan gathered outside the trade talks in Atlanta on Wednesday, protesting against the proposed deal’s protections for drug makers.

The United States is pushing for 12 years to create financial incentives to innovate, but Australia and other countries who are worried about the impact on medicine prices, oppose this proposal and are saying that a five-year period is enough.

Talks to make the TPP a reality have been ongoing for eight years.

The TPP is a central part of Obama’s foreign policy agenda, as it aims to balance the markets against the rising economic and political influence of China.

TRTWorld and agencies