Source: Inside US Trade’s News Stand
Posted: October 3, 2013
House Ways and Means Committee Member Jim McDermott (D-WA) yesterday (Oct. 3) said that countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are a long way from reaching a deal as their leaders prepare to meet next week in Bali, Indonesia, to assess the status of the negotiations.
“We’re a long way to getting to a deal [on TPP],” McDermott said in a teleconference organized by Public Citizen. His comments stand in contrast to repeated claims by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman that the negotiations are in the end game.
McDermott said he had spoken that day to Froman, who is in Bali meeting with other TPP ministers ahead of the leaders’ summit. He said he called Froman in part to convey his worries that the intellectual property (IP) provisions proposed by the U.S. in TPP could impede access to medicines in participating countries.
The congressman said an initial U.S. proposal on pharmaceuticals was “totally unacceptable” because it amounted to a retreat from the pharmaceutical provisions included in the U.S. FTAs with Peru, Colombia and Panama. These FTAs reflect the so-called May 10, 2007, agreement, which eased IP obligations of earlier FTAs to facilitate access to cheaper generic versions of medicines.
“I believe in intellectual property, and I believe in patents, and I believe in all of that stuff, but I think there is a place where you must draw a line where human suffering is involved,” McDermott said.
He stressed that he would fight to ensure TPP does not impede access to medicines in developing countries. “I’m going to make sure that any country that’s dealing with AIDS or any other epidemic has access to generics and drugs that they need,” he said.
But he also said he has not made up his mind about whether to oppose the TPP deal or support it, and he stressed that his position would depend on a close assessment of the final TPP text. “I look at these [trade deals] in terms of environment, labor and human rights kinds of issues,” he said. “I look at them very carefully and I’m not committing one way or another at this point.”
At the same time, McDermott said a successful TPP deal that includes major Asian economies like Japan would be a “huge achievement” for President Obama. “But I’m not willing to just go with anything to have a political victory,” he said.
He said he had urged Froman to make the negotiating text public so people can have a better idea of what is in it. McDermott also said that he has spoken to Froman about a labor dispute in his home state between longshore workers and two Japanese companies.
McDermott and five other House Democrats from Washington state urged Froman in a Sept. 30 letter to help resolve the lockout of U.S. longshore workers by two Japanese grain companies, Marubeni and Mitsui, as USTR discusses Japan’s involvement in TPP. Tokyo formally joined the TPP talks in July.
Outstanding text issues of intellectual property rights, environment and state-owned enterprises will be among the areas that ministers and other negotiators will seek to advance this week ahead of the leaders’ meeting, according to an Oct. 3 USTR press release. The TPP leaders and ministers are meeting on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali, Indonesia.
According to USTR, ministers “are expected to report to TPP leaders gathered in Indonesia next week on the status of the talks, and to receive further guidance on next steps in the negotiation.” One private-sector source said USTR has clearly been trying to tamp down expectations of an important announcement on TPP at the APEC summit over the last week.
Inside U.S. Trade – 10/04/2013, Vol. 31, No. 39