TPP Negotiations Shift Into Higher Gear at 16th Round
Singapore – At the close of the 16th Round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations today, chief negotiators reported that they had achieved the goal set for the round: to put the negotiations on an accelerated track toward conclusion of a next-generation, comprehensive agreement in the 2013 time frame envisioned by President Obama and the Leaders of the ten other TPP countries.
Through the TPP, the United States is seeking to help establish a trade and investment framework that supports U.S. job creation by addressing the issues faced by U.S. stakeholders in the 21st-century, promoting U.S. competitiveness, and expanding U.S. trade in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. The United States also is seeking to advance core U.S. values in the agreement, such as transparency, labor rights, and environmental protection.
U.S. Chief Negotiator and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel reports that building on the consensus the TPP countries have already achieved on a significant number of the issues under negotiation, during this round the 11 delegations intensified their drive to find mutually-acceptable paths forward on the remaining issues in the legal texts of the agreement. As a result of active intersessional engagement, and the pragmatism and flexibility shown by all countries during this round, the delegations succeeded in finding solutions to many issues in a wide range of areas such as customs, telecommunications, investment, services, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property, regulatory coherence, development, and other issues. With this progress, some negotiating groups, including customs, telecommunications, regulatory coherence, and development will not meet again to discuss the legal texts in future rounds and any remaining work in these areas will be taken up in late-stage rounds as the agreement is finalized. This will allow the TPP countries to concentrate their efforts on resolving the most challenging issues that remain, including related to intellectual property, competition, and environment.
The 11 countries also made progress during this round in continuing to develop the comprehensive packages that will provide market access for goods, services and investment, and government procurement. Productive exchanges occurred on tariff packages on industrial goods, agriculture, and textiles, as well as on rules of origin and how best to promote the development of regional supply chains in order to benefit companies based in the United States and the other TPP countries. In addition, negotiators discussed each country’s proposals to open services and investment and government procurement markets. The 11 countries agreed on additional intersessional work to build on market access advances made since the last round, to continue movement toward outcomes consistent with the high level of ambition that Leaders agreed to seek.
On March 6, the TPP negotiations adjourned temporarily so that negotiators could engage with the more than 300 stakeholders from TPP countries who registered to join the stakeholder events in Singapore. In response to stakeholder requests, Singapore arranged both for direct stakeholder engagement with negotiators and for 60 stakeholders to make presentations on a wide variety of issues. Also that day, Weisel and fellow Chief Negotiators briefed stakeholders and took questions on the substance and process of the TPP talks.
In mid-April, TPP Trade Ministers will meet on the margins of the APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia to discuss progress to date and provide further guidance to negotiators. As the negotiations draw to a close, high-level officials will be more actively engaged with one another on ways to address the remaining sensitive issues.
The 17th round of TPP negotiations will be held in Lima, Peru, from May 15-24.