TPP Talks likely to drag on until spring

Source: Nasdaq

June 26,2013

WASHINGTON (Nikkei)–The talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact will likely stretch on until next spring, with disagreements over tariffs and other key issues hampering progress, the Nikkei reported in its Wednesday evening edition.

Initial plans envisioned having the 11 member countries, including the U.S. and Australia, finalize the accord at the TPP summit in October in Bali, Indonesia. Now, however, the negotiators are looking to conclude the talks in April or May 2014, with only some key elements of the pact likely to be finalized in 2013.

The delay will give Japan a better chance of having its proposals on trade and investment reflected in the accord. Japanese negotiators will for the first time participate as official members in the round-table session from July.

Under the scenario in which the accord would be finalized in October, Japanese negotiators would have only two official sessions to convey their views before the deal was finalized–the meeting in Malaysia from July 15-25, and the one to be held in August or September in Vancouver, Canada.

However, progress has been slowed by disputes over some important agenda items, such as customs procedures for agricultural products, intellectual property rights and how to treat state-owned companies.

Some TPP partner nations have recently started bilateral talks aimed at finding ways to wrap up the negotiations by the end of this year. But a U.S. government official said negotiators generally view that timetable as unrealistic.

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