24 NOVEMBER 2010:
Over the course of the APEC Leaders’ Conference in Yokohama, TPP side-developments have continued apace, in part due the the Japanese government’s continued interest in the partnership.
The NZ Herald’s coverage of PM John Key’s APEC statements noted that he has drawn a hard line on agriculture, reported as saying that New Zealand ‘will not want
Japan at the table’ if it attempts to exclude agriculture from any trade deal.
He added that Japan would need to enter TPP ‘only on (New Zealand’s) terms’.
To other TPP partners, he urged that they hold firm on existing criteria and conditions rather than relaxing any entry barriers and allowing compromises for Japan to join talks, while reiterating NZ’s desire to negotiate a ‘high-quality, comprehensive’ agreement.
Leading up to the talks, Japan’s nationwide polls showed nearly half of respondents supported Japan joining the TPP. However, Japanese agricultural and forestry workers have demonstrated en masse against the prospect of talks and Japanese PM Naoto Kan’s own ruling Democratic Party have urged him to temporarily abandon the free-trade drive. Ultimately, Japan indicated at the end of APEC that it would not make a decision on joining TPP until June 2011. This may be too late for Japan to join as a negotiating partner however; it may be required to accede to a complete agreement if one is completed.
Meanwhile, at a sideline summit of TPP members, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet confirmed that his country would henceforth participate as a full member of the talks. Previously, it had held ‘observer status’, and had been required to decide before the Auckland round of talks whether it would shift to full membership.
Kan’s appearance at that summit was considered contentious enough in Japan that American officials banned television cameras from attending the meeting. The Herald’s John Armstrong reported that this had annoyed some other delegations to the summit.
A NZ Herald article on Key’s results from APEC (which also included a signal to begin non-TPP negotiations with Russia) and a CNEO piece on Japanese opposition to TPP talks appear below.
11 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.
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.
5 NOVEMBER 2010: An outline of a draft of the APEC Leaders' Declaration, for November's Yokohama conference, indicates that the forum will refer to a US-backed multilateral trans-Pacific free trade agreement as a 'pathway' to creating a region-wide free trade area.
The draft, obtained by Kyodo News, allegedly cites an expanded TPP agreement as a method of acheiving a Free Trade Area of the South Pacific. The draft also recommends that APEC 'incubate' that long-term goal.
Japanese proponents of free-trade and the TPP Agreement are understood to be hopeful that Japan's chairing of APEC this year, combined with the significance of committing to an developing network of agreements at the APEC leaders' meeting, would mean that the country assumed an decisive and leading position in continued talks. However, as TPPDigest has reported, the question of joining the TPP has proved divisive throughout Japanese political culture over the past month.
9 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.
27 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.
27 SEPTEMBER 2010: Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III has confirmed that his country is going to seek the support of the United States in a bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations in NYC last week, President Aquino said that the Philippines is now 'positioning' itself to be a good prospect for the pact - this follows the US's recommendation that the Asian nation 'benchmark' itself against the likely standards of the final TPP agreement.
The confirming statement, which appears in full below, from Aquino's office, also indicates that the TPP is aiming to eliminate 90 percent of all tariffs among member countries, and reduce all trade tariffs to zero by 2015.
20 SEPTEMBER 2010: The US senior official to APEC, Kurt Tong, has told BusinessWorld that the Philippines would be best advised to concentrate on taking steps to become a viable partner in the TPP.
Speaking on the sidelines of a lecture at the Asian Institute of Management, Tong told reporters that a bilateral trade pact between the US and the Philippines was not an option at this time, and that a US-ASEAN FTA was also not being considered - he also noted that a number of ASEAN nations are currently participating in the TPP negotiations or have expressed interest in doing so (Malaysia, Japan).
Tong suggested the Philippines, which currently forms the US's second largest export market after China and Hong Kong, may want to take a look at the standard the TPP is likely to reach and 'benchmark' against it.
29 JULY 2010: Speaking in Putrajaya, Malaysia, USTR Deputy Ambassador Demetrios Marantis has indicated that TPP negotiations are expected to have a 'better sense' of direction in 2011 than they have to date, especially with the US hosting the 2011 APEC meeting.
In response to questions about a clear timeline for a TPP framework, Marantis went on to say there was a need for 'substance to drive the timing' of negotiations, and that there would be more difficult regional issues to sort through as progress was made.
To date these regional trade issues have included acheiving regulatory coherence and streamlining regional supply chains, as well as how to integrate existing FTAs between negotiating parties into a new TPP framework.
Marantis also reiterated the countries' mutual committment to turn Malaysia into one of the US's top ten trading partners, saying that it was for Malaysia to decide whether the TPP was the route they wanted to take for this. He also lauded the TPP for having the potential to build on APEC's non-binding and aspirational commitments with more enforceable rules and requirements. The Bernama piece on Marantis's visit and address follows below.
18 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.
8 JUNE 2010: As TPP members discussed the progression of their negotiations on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Japan, ministers in the overall region have resolved to press on with the stalled Doha talks, and push for their continued momentum at the G20 later this month.
The talks, held in Hokkaido, represented APEC's first ministerial meeting of the year ahead of the annual summit in Yokohama this November. 2010 marked the deadline year for the developed APEC nations to achieve the fair and open trade goal the organisation set in Indonesia in 1994 (the 'Bogor Goals') - developing nations still have until 2020.
The ministers also agreed to promote cooperation on international standards, make the smooth flow of goods and services easier, and strengthen IP rights.
Together, the APEC ministers resolved to "bring the Doha Development Agenda to a successful conclusion as soon as possible". The talks have remained effectively static since 2001 due to disputes between developed and developing nations and an unwillingness for the former, in many cases, to relinquish long-held protections and subsidies.
The ministers also agreed to attempt to craft an outline for November of possible ways to form a regional free-trade area - although it has been noted that this may face the hurdle of both existing agreements (ASEAN) and possible ones (TPP). A Reuters article on the meeting follows below.
8 JUNE 2010: Trade ministers of each TPP member state met at the sidelines of the APEC conference in Sapporo at the weekend to lay down preliminaries for the second round of negotiations for the pact, set to commence Monday 14 June in San Francisco. The ministers resolved to direct their negotiators to be as 'open and creative' as possible in the areas of regulatory coherence, transparency, development competitiveness, and small-to-medium sized enterprises. It was also urged that stakeholder input from continue to be considered (though whether this was to come from business groups or civil society was not expressly clear). The USTR's report follows below.
9 APRIL 2010 - The newly apponted executive-director of APEC has an intention to work towards making the organisation "a more dynamic component of the regional economic architecture". His appointment comes at a time when APEC's milestone objectives in trade reform and liberalisation among its 21 member states has been overtaken by a number of bilateral free trade agreements in the area, as well as the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. John Armstrong profiles Muhamad Noor and APEC's direction in the NZ Herald:
""...There are signs, however, that what was starting to become a serious drift in Apec's direction is being arrested.
Noor's appointment comes in the wake of last year's Singapore leaders' meeting which was notable for two developments: a recognition by Asian economies that the global economic crisis had seen a shift of economic power in their direction away from America, and a corresponding determination by the United States to engage more pro-actively with Asia.
The global meltdown spurred leaders at the Singapore summit to call for a "new growth paradigm" in the region - one based on balanced growth and sustainability, but one which also broadens Apec's agenda from trade and investment liberalisation towards greater co-ordination of economic policy overall.
The second development had Barack Obama floating a Pacific-wide free-trade area, a concept kick-started by the Americans opening free trade negotiations with the four-nation Trans Pacific Partnership."
The US is hosting the summit next year, flagging a strong intent to make APEC the 'driving force' for continued prosperity in the region. In turn, Noor has described a shift away from a focus on trade and investment liberalisation to fleshing out the details of a "new growth paradigm". The article goes on to suggest this may involve APEC undertaking groundwork studies of how the existing spaghetti bowl of Asia-Pacific bilateral agreements would tie into a TPP.
"...meanwhile, Apec is conducting its own study on the degree to which the so-called "noodle bowl" of 43 intertwining bilateral free trade and regional free trade agreements between member economies can act as building blocks towards Obama's Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific."
(from the NZ Herald)
MARCH 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.
MARCH 5, 2010: In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis this week said the U.S. is examining how it could build on work already completed under the auspices of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) in the context of negotiations to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
"There is a lot of stuff we do in APEC that I think can very well inform some of the regional aspects of the TPP agreement," Marantis said in a March 4 interview. "So I think looking at APEC, and looking at the initiatives APEC has pursued ... and seeing what would work in the context of a binding, regional trade agreement, I think APEC will offer some instructive lessons."