G85July0820011 NOVEMBER 2010: Japanese media report that a crowd of over 3000 citizens protested on Wednesday against Japan's plan to initiate discussions to join the TPP at the APEC Leaders' Conference in Yokohama.

A mixture of farmers, fishermen, and agricultural officials began their rally in an open-air hall before marching through the streets of central Tokyo, chanting and bearing placards. Speakers warned that if Japan joined the TPP, its domestic agriculture, fisheries, and forestry would be wiped out.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's sole coalition partner. the People's New Party, has indicated it will not approve any TPP negotiations, while the main centre-right opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has also made indications his party will not support taking part in the TPP. A Japan Today article on the rally has more information.

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8 NOVEMBER 2010: AP reports the meetings ahead of next weekend's APEC Leaders' Summit in Yokohama have commenced, just as the Japanese Cabinet has indicated a willingness to engage with TPP partners. As reported earlier, a leak of the APEC Leaders' Declaration indicated that APEC would call for 'concrete steps' toward a Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Further information on the draft has indicated it offers no time-frame or deadline for such an FTA. Other limitations may be that APEC itself is not a negotiating body, and its membership, ranging from the US to third world nations such as Papua New Guinea, is even more disparate than that of the TPP.

The Daily Yomiuri reports that the government followed the Cabinet meeting agreeing to enter into talks with TPP partners, but not being specific as to whether it actually intends to participate in the agreement. This lack of a clear stand is believed to be due to opposition to possible TPP reforms within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan itself. The Yomiuri article, reproduced below, is valuable in highlighting the tenuous domestic situation of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government over the TPP question.

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canada25 OCTOBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that Canada has been told by the US and other TPP parties that it is still not ready to enter negotiations.

It is understood the message was conveyed to Canada at a sideline meeting to the Brunei round at the start of October - the rationale being that a 'range of issues' existing partners had asked Canada to address have yet to be satisfactorially resolved. Chief among these are Canada's retention of a supply management system for its dairy and poultry sectors, which has led New Zealand to criticise its bid, and a perception by the US that Canada better needs to address intellectual property rights.

Canada has not stated which specific concessions it would make in its dairy sector or elsewhere, were it to gain membership.

In Brunei, Vietnam was also urged to decide ahead of the fourth round of talks in New Zealand whether or not to join as a full negotiating partner - to date, its status has been that of an 'associate member', which has saved it some of the responsibilities and commitments of full negotiating partners. Officials have not been specific as to what would occur if Vietnam could not give an undertaking as to full membership before the December round.

The US source IUT spoke to was also non-specific as to any role for Japan in the near future in TPP talks . They were clear that no informal discussion between Japan and the US has occurred to date, and indeed suggested that Japan may be perceived much as Canada - a potential party with too many domestic hurdles at present to be seen as a viable partner by members with strong agricultural sectors. It was also suggested that as the talks become more robust, US negotiators are keen to set a cap on the current nine negotiating members, requiring other states to accede in the future.



tokyo0118 OCTOBER 2010: The Asahi Shimbun reports that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's aggressive push for his country to investigate joining the TPP at some point in the near future has placed his administration on a 'collision course' with farmers.

Kan's Democratic Party of Japan have announced the initiative as falling rice prices have affected farmers' livelihoods, with the possibility of trade liberalisation doing away with their traditional protections alarming them further. The government has pushed for a more assertive courting of free trade deals, warning that Japan risks being left behind as an economic force if it does not form more comprehensive economic partnerships.

But even within the DPJ, sentiment has been divided, with at least one Upper House member warning the TPP would destroy both the rural economy and community. Compounding this is a perception that the government's existing programme to compensate Japanese farmers for reduced market prices is ineffective, and that it could not cover the further burden of the abolition of tariffs on agricultural imports.

The full Asahi story follows below.

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malaysia-flag12 OCTOBER 2010: Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have reported on Malaysia's inclusion in the third round of talks, bringing the ranks of partners to nine.

The WSJ notes both the likely long duration of talks, as well as the uncertainty as to whether a final agreement would even be assured passage in congress without any form of fast-track authority for members. On the other commentators note the strategic value of the US's increasing engagement in the area (particularly as against China), and that Malaysia's inclusion as the US's 16th-largest trading partner gives the TPP some much needed momentum.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Australian trade academic John Ravenhill was more pessimistic about the relative insignificance of many of the partners so far, but noted that the inclusion of Japan and South Korea could make it the broadest-ranging US FTA since NAFTA. For Malaysia's part, it notes that the announcement and deal may attract foreign investment to the South-East Asian nation again, after it had been flagging in recent years.

Both articles follow below.


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brunei11 OCTOBER 2010: The third round of TPP agreement negotiations have ended in Brunei Darrulsalam. The talks ran from the 4th until the 9th, with parties giving a particular focus to the preparation of a consolidated text, as well as proposals for co-operation. Over 300 negotiators from TPP member countries participated, with 24 separate negotiating groups splitting aside across the week to discuss industrial goods, agriculture, textiles, standards, services, investment protections, IP, government procurement, competition, labour, and environmental standards.

During the talks Malaysia was made a member of the negotiations by the consensus of the eight existing members. Chief negotiators issued a joint statement to the press, saying they were 'pleased with the progress this week'. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has notified Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate President Daniel K. Inouye, of Malaysia's inclusion. He hailed the state's plans for extensive economic reform, following issues which stymied the original plans for a US-Malaysia FTA a few years ago.



tokyo019 OCTOBER 2010: Asahi.com reports on Japan's continued consideration of becoming a party to the TPP. Prime Minister Naoto Kan now says he will consider participating in future negotiations, following on from indications from Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata that there would be overtures towards the existing parties.

Asahi''s editorial welcomes Kan's position, announced ahead of the APEC leaders' meeting in Yokohama next month, but is clear as to the potential obstacles. Any trade agreement involving NZ and the US is likely to require Japan to liberalise its market for agricultural products, which may damage the government's support. Additionally, the decision comes in a climate where privatisation is presently unpopular, following criticism of the decision to privatise Japan Post in 2007 and stymied attempts to reverse the process recently.

Countering this is fear that Japan is being left behind by regional rivals (China, South Korea) who have been negotiating and finalising trade agreements as Japan refuses to negotiate on traditionally protected areas. The full editorial follows below.

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Philippines_flag1 OCTOBER 2010: Assistant US Trade Representative Barbara Weisel has welcomed the Philippines interest on joining the TPP, but has warned that doing so will involve 'significant legal reforms', including a strong IP rights system and the near-total opening up of the services sector.

BusinessWorld reports Weisel recognised that TPP commitments may even require the Philippines to undertake constitutional reforms (the constitution presently bars foreign ownership in a number of service sectors), and that the administration of Benigno Aquino III will have to generate 'domestic consensus' to permit such changes to get through.

The Philippine National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which would be negotiating any service sector liberalisation, has said full participation in TPP talks will take time because of the present legislative restrictions, and that no negotiation can occur ahead of making these reforms.

Weisel noted financial, telecommunications and computer services as areas of key interest for the US in the Philippines. The original BusinessWorld article follows below.

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malaysia-flagOCTOBER 6 2010: In a letter dated October 5, 2010, USTR Ron Kirk has informed the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, that Malaysia will be included in ongoing negotiations on the TPP agreement.

Speaking ahead of the third round of TPP talks in Brunei, Kirk said that Malaysia's inclusion "will contribute meaningfully to these goals and to the development of the high standard , 21st-century trade agreement (the US) is seeking."

Kirk continues by observing that US goods and services exports to Malaysia totalled $10 billion in 2009, which the TPP will likely enhance. He also says he has Malaysia's assurances that since it embarked on a process of extensive domestic economic reform, it is now prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement, including previous contentious issues from the US and Malaysia's fruitless bilateral negotiations.

The Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry reported that the decision came unanimously among the existing parties, estimating that it would increase the total percentage of Malaysian global trade accorded preferential treatment to 71.2%. Bernama reports that Malaysia will be hoping to benefit from reduced and eliminated export duties on footwear, textile and apparel products, as well as cocoa, petroleum products, and timepieces.

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ohata27 SEPTEMBER 2010: Japan's new Trade Minister, Akihiro Ohata, has announced that he is looking at making overtures toward the TPP. Japan has previously been vague as to whether it would join the framework.

However, Ohata admitted to a news conference that it would 'difficult' for Japan to participate unless it overcame 'its agricultural issues'.

Ohata's remarks come ahead of an annual meeting of APEC leaders in Japan in November, at which the TPP is likely to be discussed by both current and prospective parties.

Japan's reluctance to open up its agricultural market has made it previously reluctant to enter either P4 or TPP talks, but on this occasion Agriculture, Forestries and Farming Minister Michihiko Kano has also backed Ohata's announcement. He has suggested environmental tax revenue may be used to support farmers disadvantaged by the lowering of agricultural tariffs.

However, Kyodo News International reports a Foreign Ministry official as saying that Japan will first have to carry out studies over the next two months to determine whether it shall join talks for 2011, but also reported a Japanese trade academic as expressing scepticism that Japan would make any decision before the APEC meeting.

Kyodo News's full article follows below.

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Philippines_flag27 JULY 2010: Tax-news.com reports from Hong Kong that The Philippines' Trade and Industry Secretary, Gregory Domingo has disclosed that his government may be interested in joining any extension of the TPP to new parties. In a turnaround in policy, Benigno Aquino III's government have suggested the country enters negotiations for as many FTA pacts as possible so that it is not 'left behind' by neighbouring Asian nations.

Presently, the Philippines is a member of ASEAN and a participant in its Trade in Goods Agreement, and participates in free trade arrangements already with Australia and New Zealand through this.

BusinessWorld reports the senior adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce to the Philippines, John D. Forbes, as saying that entering the TPP would help its exports to the US remain competitive, especially as production int the Philippines is more expensive than in Vietnam and other South-East Asian developing economies.

Forbes hinted that the Philippines should look to the US's existing FTAs with Australia and Singapore as a sign of the standards they would need to enter the TPP.


pen24 JULY 2010: The Wall Street Journal reports a US trade official as saying that enough may have been done in the TPP talks last week for parties to start drafting a core text for the pact by October, at the third round of negotiations in Brunei. However, the official also reported that the task of structuring market-opening timelines for manufactured goods and agriculture will still require further discussions. It is understood that the US is keen to preserve existing market access plans in its existing trade deals with Australia, Chile, and Singapore, rather than developing a complicated new schedule.

The official also said that the pace of talks would mean that partners interested in becoming part of the initial bloc, such as Canada and Malaysia, would have to come to the table by early next year. As was suggested during the talks, this also presumably means that those new countries would need to agree to what was already in place amongst the original eight member states.

The WSJ also relayed that there was 'consensus' about additional measures to spur job creation and preserve the environment in the eventual agreement, although more substantive details were not offered.


sf318 JUNE 2010: The TPP is being characterised as 'the first major test' of the Obama Administration's trade agenda, according to the chairman of the US House Trade Working Group, Mike Michaud. As negotiations occur in San Francisco this week, he is once again arguing for negotiations to be conducted in the spirit of the TRADE Act, with a focus on job creation and economic opportunities for American workers and businesses. For their part, the USTR say the TPP will secure hundreds of thousands of jobs in each export-driven state.

Sources are reporting that the inclusion of new members is also a topic that will be discussed at the new round. It is being suggested that new members will be granted entrance to the talks at the consensus of all current parties, though they will be required to accept the 'high-standard' terms the other parties will have already negotiated. Canada and Malaysia are reportedly willing to meet these terms.

One likely source of dispute among the stakeholders this week has been investment, in particular investor protections against adverse government decisions. Public Citizen and other NGO watchdogs are urging a departure from previous US bilateral investment models, while business lobbyists are insisting that these investment measures in fact need to be stronger. Sources report that the US is proposing provisions similar to those contained in the recent US-Korea agreement.

Business groups, who sent a letter to Ron Kirk urging completion of talks by the APEC Leaders' Meeting in 2011, say they are pleased at the progress of targets and believe it will match their desired target, should it continue at its current speed.

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tokyo0115 MAY 2010 - Inside US Trade reports that private-sector sources are questioning whether the US administration needs to be doing more to bring developed Asian countries like Japan into TPP negotiations faster. These sources also say that the USTR has set down a deadline of agreeing to join the talks by early in the Northern Hemisphere fall at the latest, or be required to wait and accede to a completed deal.

"...Several sources also questioned whether a major country like Japan would be willing to accede to a TPP agreement after it has already been negotiated, rather than joining the talks so that it could influence the outcome of the negotiations. If not, this would make it paramount to ensure that countries join during the negotiations, they said.

But one source disagreed, arguing that Japan may not want to be left out of an Asia-Pacific free trade area and could ultimately agree to its terms even if it did not partake in the negotiations."

US officials had previously stressed to Inside US Trade that accession during the negotiation process may be possible, but should be kept to a one-off occurence lest it continually disrupt the negotiation process. However, the USTR has set no absolute guidelines on how and when countries may join the talks or accede to a finished deal. US officials have discussed the possibility of entry with both Colombia and Malaysia at different times since March.

malaysia-flag8 May 2010: The United States has stated that it would welcome Malaysia to the ongoing TPP negotiations, following talks between US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his Malaysian counterpart. Malaysia has recently been considering a series of economic 'modernisation' and liberalisation initiatives to make the country a more appealing free trade partner and to avoid some of the issues which stalled bilateral negotiations between the US and Malaysia.

Kirk also acknowledged that there was some resistance from US politicians to getting any new free trade deal through the hurdle of a vote in Congress, while urging that the underlying 'cynicism' creeping into domestic US discourse around free trade be addressed. The article follows below.

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malaysia-flag16 APRIL 2010: Washington Trade Daily reports that Malaysia is taking a 'close look' at joining the TPP negotiations. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak spoke at a forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noting the 'unfortunate' lack of progress in Malaysia's bilateral negotiations with the US and touting his recently announced 'New Economic Model' of trade and investment liberalisation. The Assistant US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Barbara Weisel, noted that Malaysia will need to convince prospective TPP partners that it will have room to move on sectors such as services and government procurement, both of which caused impasses in the US-Malaysia bilateral negotiations. The article follows below the break.

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canadaAPRIL 15, 2010 - The Globe And Mail alleges that Canada has missed the opportunity to take part in TPP negotiations, with New Zealand PM John Key re-emphasising that warning (while de-emphasising the risks to Canada of free trade with NZ) on his visit to Canada this week. Canadian  Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government declined joining the negotiations in 2006, primarily due to concern about the possible effect on the Quebec and Ontario dairy industries as a result of the inclusion of dairy-intensive member states such as New Zealand. The article itself cites a US source that is reluctant to admit new countries per each round of negotiations, but also quotes the Canadian Trade Minister as saying Canada is being 'kept in the picture'.

Canada currently has no free trade agreements with Asian nations. It operates a 'supply management' framework which uses price controls and quotas to regulate supply and demand in its dairy market.

Key said he hoped that Canada would eventually join TPP negotiations, but emphasised that Canada would have to enter into 'flexible and comprehensive agreements'. He ruled against exceptions from a New Zealand negotiating partner on dairy, telling journalists that such a deal would be 'unacceptable to us'. He also indicated that the strength of dairy lobbying in Canada will make further developments 'very challenging'. Key rejected any suggestion that the US is presently vetoing Canada's entry into the TPP.


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australasia_1APRIL 2 2010: The possibility of a broad regional trade agreement in the Pacific is reportedly leading Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to consider reopening the market access arrangements in their own existing bilateral trade agreements. While sources are suggesting this is being done with an intention of creating a single, unified market access schedule to eliminate a 'spaghetti bowl' effect ahead of a TPP Agreement, a USTR official has already expressed doubts about reopening these agreements at a sensitive time. An Inside US Trade story follows below the break...

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colombian-flagMARCH 19 2010: In sidetalks to the first round of TPP negotiations, Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean has met with his Colombian counterpart, with indications it wishes to become the ninth nation involved in the Partnership Agreement.

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A paper put out and submitted to the USTR by the Washington-based Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics has backed the US's decision to enter TPP negotiations, while urging that "the US objective should be to reach agreement on a TPP including at least a dozen Asia Pacific countries, including Japan and Korea and at least one major ASEAN country as well as the eight that are currently committed to the initiative, by the time of the APEC Summit to be hosted by the United States in President Obama's home town of Honolulu in late 2011." The paper goes on to recommend that participation "immediately" be extended to Canada and Mexico. One of the paper's authors, C. Fred Bergsten, is interviewed here.


malaysia-flagKUALA LUMPUR, March 8 2010 -- Malaysia stands to gain from joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) quickly as it will be well placed to negotiate better deals to boost trade volume and increase market access into the American market, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia James Keith said on Monday.

Expecting Malaysia to come on board soon, Keith said the TPP, comprising eight countries, would be a high quality platform to increase market access and boost trade flows for all member countries.
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Vietnam_FlagMarch 21, 2009. VNBusinessNews - Viet Nam has been officially approved to taken part in Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations as a “partnering member,” according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

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