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pharmaceuticals11 May 2011: The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has declared an intention to have all its proposals on IP protections by the commencement of the next round of TPP talks in Vietnam on June 20, spurring renewed lobbying by pharmaceutical companies to secure advantages for the industry in any US bid.

Inside US Trade reports that reports that US pharma companies are seeking a final US proposal that replicates the same 'high-standard' of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) with additional protections for more recent pharmaceutical developments such as growing use of biologics (medicinal products created from biological and organic processes, rather than chemical ones).

Additionally, they are resisting any move by the US to base a proposal on the May 10, 2007 agreement. That agreement varied the original IP conditions in the Colombia, Panama and Peru US trade agreements in order to gain bipartisan support for all three to pass through Congress. The changes were designed to help ensure access to affordable medicines in developing countries. A leaked lobbying document from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) indicates the May 10 agreement 'openly discriminates against the innovative pharmaceutical industry and would hinder (the) ability to compete fairly by lowering IP standards in export markets).

Lobbyists have also been outspoken about the current state of play in prospective TPP export markets, including New Zealand, which has a central  state-run drug-purchasing agency (Pharmac). Pharmac is described as having a single-minded focus on 'driving down costs' that 'comes at the expense of the respect for intellectual property, transparency to the public and patient access tro better health outcomes' in the same document.

While no full details on what the US's June proposal will look like are presently available, senior USTR officials have indicated they would be open to moving away from the May 10 proposals. However, leading public health and advocacy groups are expected to use the May 10 agreement as the basis for their desired TPP proposal.

 

john_key_13085890958 FEBRUARY 2011: Prime Minister John Key has come in for heavy criticism from some trade commentators and activists, following a statement by Assistant US Trade Representative Barbara Wiesel that a statement of his on the inclusion of investor-state dispute mechanisms in TPP had been retracted.

Last November, Key said that the possibility of investor-state clauses that allowed foreign firms to sue New Zealand in TPP was 'far-fetched'.

Now, Radio New Zealand says Wiesel has stated in a 31 January Washington civil society briefing that NZ's negotiators will now agree to the clause.

Green Party leader Dr Russel Norman immediately seized on the contradiction, saying that Key would have to explain why his previous statements could no longer be relied upon. He went on to warn that the inclusion of the provisions could affect NZ's ability to enact anti-smoking legislation, place restrictions on foreign ownership, and and Pharmac's independent purchasing choices.

Dr Norman also added that this highlighted the need for the text to be publicly released rather than negotiated in secrecy.

Professor Jane Kelsey has speculated that Key's response indicated that he "did not know what his negotiators were proposing to do when he described investor-state enforcement as 'far-fetched'; or he was lying to the New Zealand public; or he buckled to pressure from the US...to agree." She added that Key needed to be upfront about his exact intentions before the fifth round of negotiations commenced on 14 February in Chile.

Key subsequently said he had never retracted his comments, and that they applied to the possibility of civil suits rather than the inclusion of the provision itself.

The Radio NZ story can be heard here.

 

circuit-boards20 DECEMBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that USTR held a meeting with US stakeholders last week, where it was indicated that US negotiators would likely draft a proposed text covering all aspects on an intellectual property rights chapter at the fifth round of talks in Chile in February.

To date, the US has tabled proposals for general provisions and trademarks of an IP chapter of TPP. The February talks would see the US table sections on copyright, patents, and IP rights enforcement.

A blog on Knowledge Economy International, representatives of which were present at the stakeholder meeting, indicates that the US intends that unlike ACTA (in ACTA's current form), the TPP will have a dispute resolution process where parties may be subject to fines and penalties for breach of the agreement. KEI were also told the Obama Administration would not consider anything which lowered IPR norms as part of the TPP - in effect, IP laws and rights can only be harmonised upwards in TPP. KEI has some good examples of how this departs from executive policy under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations on its site.

 
circuit-boardsDECEMBER 5 2010:

The December 3 edition of Inside US Trade reports that a draft paper which has now been finalized and submitted to the Office of the US Trade Representative by a coalition of US businesses is urging US negotiators to actively shape IP regimes in other TPP countries in order to protect US geographical indicators (GI’s). Apart from protecting certain GI’s already existing in the US, the coalition wants the policy to make certain products produced in ‘significant quantities’ outside a proposed protected region (for example, ‘feta’ cheese) ineligible for GI protection. This is intended to help current US manufacturers and producers and save them the loss or cost of relabelling and rebranding.

As well, the paper requests that US negotiators replicate the IP provisions of the as-yet unsigned US-Korea trade agreement as a baseline to a text, especially in the area of patents and copyrights. It also asks for punitive protections extending beyond those in the current version of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), such as a requirement that TPP states outlaw filming in theatres.

The paper, written by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), also suggests that the TPP go beyond the US-Korea FTA in terms of software patents. These are traditionally a contentious area of IP rights, with critics arguing that patenting software effectively grants property rights over formulas and algorithims (ie: knowledge itself, rather than new physical inventions or processes).
The paper also contains implicit criticism of New Zealand’s public pharmaceutical purchaser, Pharmac. At one point, it urges drafters to deal with regulatory barriers which ‘have the effect of delaying or restricting access to innovative medicines to patients’. NZ is also cited as a TPP country that has yet to fully implement requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)’s Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

 

ustr5713 OCTOBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that USTR, following the recommendations of a business coalition draft document, may be putting forward the US's own central co-ordinating body on regulation forward as a model to other TPP partners.

Currently, the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) takes a primary role in the US rule-making process - a federal agency wanting an issue a rule or regulation must comply with its requirements, including that a cost-benefit analysis of the rule is undertaken, and that the value in not regulating is also considered.

The US business coalition say the adoption of an OIRA-style body by other TPP partners would help regulate the decisions and reforms made across their government agencies and departments, ensuring they abided by the requirements of a TPP treaty.

However, civil society groups are wary of the effects of establishing such bodies. Sean Flynn of American University's Washington College of Law has warned that the US's current regulation oversight model was 'decades' in the making, and that the effect of imposing such an advanced model on developing countries in the talks, such as Vietnam, would be potentially destabilising.

A further concern is that there are currently no undertakings on whether the cost-benefit analyses envisaged would extend beyond trade costs (ie: to health, safety, labour and environmental concerns). Additionally, some groups have warned that strict regulatory coherence provisions would limit the ability of TPP members to regulate in the national interest - noting that Australia and New Zealand, both parties to TPP, have taken an aggressive stance on regulatory coherence in the multilateral Doha talks. As noted last week, New Zealand will be preparing a document on regulation for the fourth round of talks in Auckland, in December.

In comparison, the US approach to regulatory coherence at Doha has been less strict - it has opposed the 'necessity test' (requiring that regulations passed be 'no more burdensome than necessary') proposal that the two Australasian partners have previously supported.

 

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.

 

 

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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ustr572 SEPTEMBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports the the Office of the US Trade Representative is currently pursuing multiple approaches to achieve 'regulatory coherence' among TPP parties. This is being done to relieve barriers to exports. USTR is currently asking private-sector stakeholders to identify priority areas where regulatory barriers need to be examined and potentially removed.

Assistant US Trade Representative has also indicated that the US is keen to look at establishing new TPP-wide regulatory systems for emerging industries, as well as increasing transparency in current regulatory requirements among TPP countries - this may be done through the construction of a database that provides all information on these requirements in one place for those who may want to trade within the TPP.

It is reported that other USTR officials suggested that the Obama administration is looking to expand the provisions on labour and environmental protections before what was inclued in past US agreements. This may include cooperative efforts on job creation and skills enhancement, and the promotion and regulatory reform of 'green' technology. Particular areas of interest cited by US Trade Reps have reportedly been illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, and marine conservation.

 

ustr5729 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.

 

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malaysia-flag20 JULY 2010: Inside US Trade reports that Malaysia is conducting final intense deliberations on whether to become a party in TPP negotiations, and that a decision could be made early next week as to its position, when Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed meets with USTR representatives.

Malaysia has previously publically signalled interest in joining the talks, with PM Najib Tun Razak especially keen on becoming involved. However, sources estimate that it will not be in a position to join the talks until sometime next year.

Officials will be examining the TPP's relationship with Malaysia's five-year plan to modernise its economy, in particularly the 'New Economic Model' proposed by the nation's National Economic Advisory Council last year. The model was intended to resolve some of the areas of dispute which caused negotiations on the US-Malaysia FTA to grind to a halt in 2007, including caps on foreign direct investment and affirmative action employment quotas for native Malays.

 
microchip227 JUNE 2010: IBM are reporting that the USTR are pushing for the liberalisation of computer-related services within the TPP agreement. At a June 16 press conference, vice-president of government programmes Chris Padilla said IBM and other computing companies are seeking a TPP equivalent to the WTO's plurilateral Information Technology Agreement (ITA) which liberalised computer and telecommunications hardware. This agreement (or agreements) would ensure access to advanced information and communications technologies, services, software, and electronic commerce, while also ensuring that parties eliminate any remaining customs duties on these technologies.
 

spagbowl2 JULY 2010: Much of what was discussed and debated at the second round of TPP talks in San Francisco has been teased out and presented to the public after the fact. Public Citizen's Eyes on Trade blog highlights the ongoing uncertainty as to how negotiating parties will deal with their existing 'spaghetti bowl' arrangement of bilateral agreements, and suggests that this means no final agreement can be reached by late 2011.

The US position at the San Francisco talks was that the TPP negotiations should not 'open up' existing market access schedules. This would likely mean that the special status of some sensitive products in the previous FTAs (for example, sugar's exclusion from the US-Australia FTA) would be preserved. This may limit the further market access the US can get within Australia, Peru, and Chile.

Sources say the US is keen to negotiate bilaterally with countries it doesn't yet have agreements with - this would involve separate talks with Brunei, New Zealand and Singapore. This would create a number of different market access schedules within the TPP, with differing tariffs and deadlines. It is understood that Australia, NZ and Singapore would prefer plurilateral agreements on market access across the board, and that existing market access schedules be opened. The rationale is that this would be simpler, and set a high standard for the agreement on the whole and future acceding parties. As mentioned earlier on the TPP Digest, the primary and secondary sectors of the US agricultural industry are split on keeping existing market access schedules closed. Producers fear the effects of opening up the domestic market to further agricultural imports from Peru, Australia, Singapore and Chile. Processors, meanwhile, believe they could gain advantages in new markets from reform of market access rules, and have accused producers of 'protectionism'.

Inside US Trade reports that negotiators are planning another informal meeting on the matter of market access schedules before Brunei in October.

Inside US Trade is also reporting that existing regulatory difficulties across member markets may also prove to be a hurdle. USTR Ron Kirk has cited regulatory coherence as one of the aims that would make the TPP a '21st century' agreement, but business spokespeople have admitted that addressing present differences will be 'very hard'. An alternative that some have proposed is to establish a framework of principles that can be used for future regulatory coherence, rather than trying to harmonise all sectors ahead of a final agreement. The US Business Coalition for TPP has prepared a confidential paper on regulatory coherence which urges TPP countries to go further and farther than previous trade agreements to ensure that, where possible, binding commitments are sought and made. Another source suggested New Zealand and Australia are likely to be at the front of such a push.

 

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.

 

Vietnam_Flag_022 JUNE 2010: Reuters have suggested that US exporters will be looking toward Vietnam, a observing member only at both last week's meeting and the Melbourne talks in March, as their biggest coup in successful TPP talks. However, they have also noted lasting unease around the state's current environmental and labour record, as well as that of Brunei's.

USTR Ambassador Demetrios Marantis spoke at Hanoi's Foreign Trade University on June 9 - there, he praised Vietnam's 'determination and acheivement' in building trade and investment ties with America and the global economy, and promised to deal with Vietnam 'frankly and cooperatively' in future trade issues. On the matter of the TPP:


"The eyes of the Asia-Pacific are on you. Some are wondering if Vietnam can do what it takes to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and others are wondering if you should do it. My response to the both these questions is absolutely ‘yes’. Vietnam can; the United States knows from watching and working with you in the past that Vietnam has the strong capacity to meet the international commitments it undertakes. And Vietnam should do what it takes to be part of the TPP, because your participation will enhance your own competitiveness and further your integration into the global economy.

"TPP partners are taking a new approach to trade negotiations – a 21st century attitude that reflects how companies from Hanoi to Houston will do business in the future. We want to ensure that small businesses benefit from this agreement, that it promotes development and regional integration and address key issues such as worker rights and environmental protection and conservation. These are priorities not only of the Obama trade agenda but of every forward-looking nation.

"The United States hopes that TPP will eventually grow to include countries across the Asia Pacific region. But to achieve something so ambitious, it is important to start with a group of like-minded countries. And we are exceedingly pleased that Vietnam is among them. As part of the TPP from the beginning, Vietnam will have the chance to shape the rules of what will become the most significant trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific. From our rich, recent history, there is every reason to believe that, through the TPP, Vietnam and the United States will continue to achieve together things that seemed impossible not long ago."

Reuters also noted that US business group stakeholders were seeking pledges both for a conclusion of talks by the time of the Hawaii APEC conference in November 2011, and for all parties not to impose any new barriers to trade while negotiations continue (ie: the "Buy American" provision of last year's stimulus bill).

 

border-fence21 JUNE 2010: Inside US Trade reports that US negotiators are resisting demands from other TPP parties to further open its own borders to allow the temporary entry of highly skilled workers. Assistant USTR Barbara Weisel relayed Congress's desire that it does not want USTR to negotiate market access on immigration in the TPP context during a June 15 briefing to stakeholders at the San Francisco talks. This would appear to be an accurate reflection of bipartisan pressure in the US government against further immigration-liberalising provisions in US FTAs.

However, it has also been made clear that the current favourable visa concessions to highly skilled workers from Singapore and Chile are unlikely to be scaled back from their bilateral trade agreement forms in the TPP, as both parties are likely to object to such a reduction.

Weisel also acknowledged the original P4 text at this meeting, as negotiated between NZ, Australia, Singapore and Brunei. Chapter 13 of that agreement required that parties "exchange information on measures that affect the temporary entry of business persons", and required the parties to review the rules and conditions applicable to movement of natural persons "with a view to achieving a comprehensive chapter on temporary entry".

 

us_flag20 JUNE 2010: The second round of TPP talks reached an end at the weekend, with the USTR reporting "significant, positive" progress over the week.

Thursday's session reportedly involved discussion in the lead negotiator's group of how best to address the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, transparency, and the issue of stable supply chains across the Asia-Pacific region. Other groups split to discuss capacity building, cross-border services, customs cooperation, e-commerce, financial services, government procurement, intellectual property rights, investment, labor, santiary/phytosanitary measures, and textiles.

The afternoon saw stakeholder presentations from the Center for Public Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH) and the California Public Health Association-North (CPHAN). CPATH's presentation to the TPP negotiators is available online here. Another TPP presentation on energy services, made by the International Forum on Globalization's executive director, Victor Menotti, is available here.

Friday's session involved final negotiating group meetings on business mobility, capacity building, financial services, government procurement, intellectual property rights, sanitary/phytosanitary measures, textiles and 'trade remedies'. USTR reports it will hold a briefing in Washington DC this week to update the press on last week's round.

The USTR TPP blog also fielded a few questions last week, including one about the incorporation of Colombia into the TPP. Their indication was that "current TPP members have decided to focus initial expansion of the group on APEC member economies" (of which Colombia is presently not one). USTR instead reiterated its intention to resolve concerns regarding the US-Colombia FTA.

Reuters report that the eight member parties now hope to begin working out a draft text at the third round of talks in Brunei in October, and that US multinationals, including Wal-Mart, are lobbying keenly for a relaxation of existing rules of origin laws.

 

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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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ustr5715 JUNE 2010 - The first day of the TPP negotiations has wrapped up in San Francisco, with the USTR once again dedicating a portion of its site to daily updates. It reports that a briefing was provided to major stakeholders that registered to attend the talks, including industry groups, environmental NGOs, unions, and fair trade campaigners.  Topics of discussion have included the US approach to investment issues, how the agreement will relate to its predecessors, and the process for future accessions.

A plenary was then held setting out the goals for the week: determining a framework for market access negotiations and the relationship between the TPP agreement and pre-existing FTAs, and defining a path forward on so-called “horizontal” issues including small business priorities, regulatory coherence, competitiveness, supply chains, development, and regional integration.

In the afternoon, smaller working groups split up to discuss the following:

*Technical Barriers to Trade

*Market Access

*Legal and Institutional

*Cross-Border Services

*Competition

*Investment

*Environment


Meanwhile, as the week began, nearly 100 US companies and business groups wrote a joint letter to Ron Kirk, claiming that 'time is of the essence' and that negotiators should aim to complete talks by the end of 2011. An AFP article follows below.

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15 JUNE 2010: The Washington, DC-based Citizens' Trade Campaign has issued a press release on behalf of its 18 national organisations, calling for TPP negotiating parties to embark on their second round of talks with the reform commitments in international trade Barack Obama made on his 2008 campaign trail.Once again, they are asking that USTR negotiators look to the Trade, Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act as a map for further negotiation. The full press release follows below.

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congress7 JUNE 2010 - The Wall Street Journal has written on the 'relatively modest regional deal' (in their words) that is the TPP. The pieces focuses on the gaps between the Obama administration, civil society groups, and business interests around the agreement, and quotes the National Association of Manufacturers' fears that inclusion of '21st century' labour and environmental standards could end up being too tough.

The article also quotes the sponsor of the TRADE Act bill, Michael Michaud, as reporting that House supporters of the Act's aims have met with the USTR and are working towards a 'positive trade agenda'.

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scenic_lake24 JUNE 2010: Following a call by the USTR for submissions for a proposed TPP environmental review, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends Of The Earth US, and The Sierra Club have written a nine-page submission urging for negotiators to ensure that all imports of wood, wildlife or products thereof meet the standards and laws of their country of origin. The groups have argued that a strongly-worded agreement could curb illegal regional trade in these products. In doing so, they hope that the TPP will take its cues from the 2008 US Lacey Act, which currently governs US prohibitions on illegally sourced fish, wildlife, and plant products.

The submitting groups are particularly worried about observing member Vietnam and prospective member Malaysia's reputations for illegal logging, as well as Chile and Peru's issues with illegal trade in fish. Inside US Trade reports that the environmental review will continue throughout negotiations, with a final report to be produced at their conclusion.

The groups additionally seek a scale-back of the ability for private entities to challenge government decisions in investor-state disputes, saying that these run against the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest. Their full letter can be read here.

 

cover-letter-template4 JUNE 2010: A group of over 25 American corporations and industry bodies has written to Islam Siddiqui, the USTR's chief agricultural negotiator, urging that a 'comprehensive' TPP go ahead.

The group, which includes multinationals such as Walmart, Nestle, Kraft, and Mars Incorporated alongside lobbies such the Emergency Committee For American Trade and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, urges that all avenues for increased market access be investigated and that all products and sectors be included in an agreement to enable this.

The letter goes on to recommend that import-sensitive sectors be given appropriate tariff phase-out timeframes where it can be shown that they need more time to adapt, but with an eventual aim of total tariff elimination. At any rate, the writers entreat that sensitive agricultural sectors be up for negotiation rather than wholly excluded from the upcoming rounds. They conclude arguing that the TPP should be envisaged as a 'WTO-plus' agreement.

The letter follows in its entireity below.

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gavel22 MAY 2010: American academic and blogger Simon Lester was among those who posed questions in USTR's online chat on Friday 21 May. He has parsed their answer to his question about the inclusion of a investor-state dispute mechanism in the TPP agreement on the International Economic Law and Policy Blog:

 

"Things that suggest inclusion:

-- it was a "priority" in prior FTAs

-- it provides "critical protection" for U.S. investors abroad

Things that suggest it won't be included:

-- its inclusion in prior FTAs was related to trade negotiating objectives from 2002, which have since been modified, and apparently have not yet been determined for the TPP

-- they are still looking for input, which suggests that the status quo (inclusion of investor-state) is not set in stone

-- there is no mention of the impact of investor-state on domestic regulations, which many people view as a negative aspect of investor-state (or does not mentioning this point suggest they want to downplay it in order to justify the inclusion of investor-state?)"

 

ustr5721 MAY 2010 - Last week was deemed 'World Trade Week' in the United States by the Obama Administration, and saw US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has been work to encourage buy-in for support of the TPP from both the US Chamber of Commerce and members of the public.

On 18 May, Kirk spoke to the US Chamber of Commerce's 'Next Steps on World Trade' conference
, with a focus on his administration's 'high-standard, 21st century, Asia-Pacfic regional trade agreement'. He again confirmed that San Francisco would be the site of negotiations on the week of June 14. With regards to market access arrangements, he said that any agreement would need to be 'forward looking' while also possessing 'enough flexibility to accomodate sensitivities'.

Kirk also indicated that the second round of negotiations would focus on 'value-added' benefits of a regional agreement, such as greater regulatory cooperation on issues such as food safety.


On 21 May, the USTR held an "online chat" session in which it answered submitted questions about various aspects of the TPP. The chat indicated that the USTR is focused on obtaining an investor-state dispute mechanism for the TPP, that it intends to 'consult closely with stakeholders' over the possible changes to rules of origin in the US textile industry that the TPP would require, and that the US will seek 'high-standard' IP enforcement rights. A transcript of the chat follows below.

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ustr575 MAY 2010 - The US Trade Representative have taken right of reply in the Wall Street Journal following Bernard K. Gordon's article for the same publication late in April. They accuse Gordon of mischaracterising the Obama administration's attitude to the multilateral Doha round, and affirm that a completed TPP would be 'a key and promising element of a new trade strategy for North America'. Their letter follows below.

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scenic_lake28 MAY 2010 - The US Trade Representative has called for written comments from the public ahead of an environmental review of the proposed TPP legislation, initiated through the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC). The TPSC is requesting the written comments from the public in order to establish the scope of the environmental review, including potential environmental effects that may flow from the trade agreement and its possible effect on domestic US environmental laws and regulations. The focus of the review is on the US, but global and trans-boundary impacts may be considered where appropriate and prudent.

The closing date for public comment is June 1 2010. Comments are to be submitted online at http://www.regulations.gov. For
alternatives to on-line submissions, please contact Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), at (202) 395-3475.

The TPSC says that public comments regarding environmental matters that were submitted for the first round of public submissions on the TPP will be taken into account in this review, and do not need to be re-submitted.

 

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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cattle1 MAY 2010: The USTR has firmly opposed the notion of excluding the dairy sector in its entireity from any completed TPP negotiation. Inside US Trade reports there have been potential tradeoffs discussed, including US dairy concessions in the talks in exchange for the raising of barriers on imports of milk protein concentrates (which New Zealand is a major exporter of). USTR has made it clear, however that it does not presently back legislation imposing such tariffs. Additionally, the proposed tariffs on MPC's would violate US committments at the WTO, meaning the US may have to negotiate with WTO members not part of the TPP who believe the barriers might affect them.

 

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canada27 APRIL 2010: The Canadian Minister of Trade, Peter Van Loan, has indicated that Canada intends to focus more strongly on bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements rather than concentrating solely on the progress of multilateral WTO talks. These may include the completion of talks with the European Union, as well as an FTA with Colombia. Van Loan indicated that Canada is watching the TPP talks 'with interest', but its success in joining negotiations is likely to rely substantially on its removing protections for its dairy and poultry sectors. Inside US Trade have received confirmation Van Loan has met with USTR Ron Kirk, but did not indicated whether this included discussion of Canada's future with the TPP.

 

 

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USTR.HTWG.photo.3-10-1016 APRIL 2010: The Washington Trade Daily reports that the USTR has met with leaders of Congress's congressional caucus on dairy farming to attempt to allay their fears about the sector being liberalised as part of any completed TPP agreement, and opened up to competition by New Zealand.Caucus co-chair Peter Welch (D-Vermont) has advocated NZ dairy trade's exclusion from the TPP, backed by a number of US dairy organisations. The WTD continues:

"Mr. Kirk told reporters he understands those concerns, but he is not ready to take anything off the table this early in the negotiations.  The first round of TPP talks took place last month. There is plenty of time to look for creative solutions that would benefit the US dairy industry, he said.  Actually this is a good time to ask what the US government can do to help US milk produces export so they can be just as competitive as New Zealand.'"

Kirk also asked the caucus and US producers to bear in mind the substantial market access the TPP could open up over multiple markets,especially should it expand to become a full Asia-Pacific multilateral agreement.

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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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ustr57The Office of the United States Trade Representative has just released its annual 'hit list' for 2010 on subsisting trade barriers in its trading partner countries. All seven of its current negotiating partners in the TPP are reviewed, with all having particular areas where the US argues further reform, liberalisation, or transparency is needed. These include pharmecutical goods, audiovisual and media services, tariff barriers, investment rules, e-commerce, and legal services. All 2010 USTR profiles can be found on the respective country page on this site, and below.

 




USTR report on NZ's Foreign Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Australian Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Chilean Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Brunei's Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Singapore's Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Peru's Trade Barriers, 2010

USTR report on Vietnam's Trade Barriers, 2010

 

 

john-key23 MARCH 2010: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has downplayed the concerns of both the US Dairy Producers Federation and a group of thirty senators regarding the negotiation of a US-NZ FTA as part of the TPP, saying he believes that the stance is a hard curtain-raising position that will later be softened. He has also said that New Zealand will not be part of any deal that excludes agriculture.

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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.

 
ustr57As agricultural and farming blogs have been quick to seize on, the US dairy industry has come out in force on the eve of TPP negotiations. And those concerns have quickly been heard and met by a bipartisan group of 30 senators, many of whom come from the US's own dairy heartland. On March 11, they delivered a letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk urging that the industry is protected from New Zealand (or, more specifically, dairy co-op giant Fonterra) in any agreement between the nations. The letter itself continues below the break...
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cowMARCH 11, 2010 (Wall Street Journal) - US dairy farmers are pleading for protection from their counterparts in New Zealand as President Barack Obama's trade negotiators begin talks on a regional agreement in Australia next week.

 

New Zealand accounts for nearly a quarter of global dairy exports, according to Rabobank International, a large agricultural lender. U.S. dairy farmers are concerned that increased trade with the region could result in New Zealand flooding the U.S. with cheap dairy products such as cheese and milk powder that could depress prices for U.S. producers. Logistics and cost make it unlikely New Zealand would ship fluid milk to the U.S.

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USTR.HTWG.photo.3-10-10WASHINGTON DC, MARCH 10 2010 – Today, Representative Mike Michaud (D-ME), Chairman of the House Trade Working Group (HTWG), joined with Representative Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and other HTWG members in a bipartisan meeting with United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk regarding continuation of U.S participation in talks for a Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

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apec-4MARCH 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."

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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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