VARGO: Tucson where we have been holding
the sixth round of negotiations with Columbia,
Ecuador. And we have a Bolivian team here as well
as an observer. We began meeting on
Tuesday. Some of the topics will
continue their discussion through today.
Intellectual property rights will continue through tomorrow and
telecommunications and e-commerce will take place in
DC next week. Those were to handle some scheduling
But we just held a brief press conference for the Andean
press that’s here at the negotiations.
And I think it’s interesting that my counterparts characterize this
round, each of them, as the same way I would: that this is the most productive
round that we have had yet. We had
a number of important developments.
First, I would highlight that coming in that we agreed that
we could benefit from some additional work past January, which had been up til
now has been our last scheduled round.
So we have agreed that we will meet the week of January 31st,
the next location will be in
Columbia. That we will do another round in
mid-March, but that we will continue to assess what our needs are here in terms
of timing and progress. But we all
would like to see these negotiations conclude in the early part of next
We made some good progress here this round on the industrial
market access talks. (On the good
sides our market-access talks are divided into three different areas:
agricultural products, textiles and industrial goods). We made improved, we enhanced our offers
with Peru and
Columbia, as they did. And we are in the process of doing so
Ecuador. They needed a little bit more time to
evaluate the offer that was on the table.
But, we have moved a long way towards consolidating their ATPA
preferences on industrial goods, and for their part, they made a significant
movement to addressing areas of US interests. We have some more work to do there, but
I think now we are getting down to the finer issues in terms of improving the
quality of the offer in some areas.
We also had a good exchange on agriculture. We worked principally at a bilateral
level and we were able to develop a work plan with each country to kind of work
through our priorities and sensitivities.
And everybody has their objectives for information and ideas to bring
into the next round.
On the text side, we now have all of our proposals out on the
table. In virtually every area, not necessarily uniformly evenly, but really
virtually every area, we were able to make progress on the text, to begin to
streamline text and remove brackets and make agreements on various
elements. So, the overall sense
here at this round was very positive.
On the edges of the round, regarding if you will the
atmospherics and other things that took place, I think it’s interesting that we
started off our week here with Congressman Kolbe who was here for two days and
very generous with his time in meeting with a number of the participants that
were here. For their part,
particular, came with large Congressional delegations. They had on the order of 20-30 people
hosted the last round; I think they didn’t feel the same need to bring a group
like that this time. OPIC came and
presented some very interesting programs that they will be operating that can
help with the credit needs of micro-companies in the region. We had a networking business exchange
with the local Tucson
businessmen. So, we had a variety
of other activities that were happening here alongside the negotiations as
well. But it’s been a good
week. What kinds of questions can I
answer for you?
REPORTER: Janet Van Grasstek with the
Washington Trade Report. Was there any progress made on the price
band issue in the agriculture talks?
VARGO: I don’t think that that is an issue
that’s just going to, you know, vanish one day. I think part of the positive discussion
that was in agriculture was people did do a little bit more brainstorming on the
issue. But in particular, this idea
that we will begin to focus in on this issue product by product and see what are
the various tools that we can lend to the process that would help address some
of the objectives that the price band provides for the Andeans.
Regina, this is Corey Henry
with Inside US Trade. Can you tell
us, you know specifically always in the past, the goal had been to try and get
the negotiations wrapped up before or around Inauguration Day in January. But is it fair to characterize that
there’s, you know, sort of continuing a lot of differences of agriculture, IPR
that would make let the decision to extend the talks into March, or what would
you pinpointed as the areas of cause that you would need to delay the
VARGO: Well, I think the first thing I’d say,
is that the pace that we had set up for January, we always realized was a
challenging one. And the Andeans
are not only coming into this negotiation with their own thoughts, but they need
to coordinate. And I think that
added just a time element to the process that made January unrealistic. Beyond that, Corey, I think you have
accurately identified the two most difficult areas of the negotiation, which are
intellectual property and agriculture, but we had as I said, everybody felt that
while we had no concrete result to point to at this point, everybody felt that
the discussion, the tone and the development of the work plan [on agriculture]
was very positive. And intellectual
property is still meeting, but we had good talks so far this week in the areas
of copyright and enforcement. So,
you know, all of the groups are making some headway.
REPORTER: Joanna Ramey, Fairchild
Regina, what progress can
you, what specifics can you give on the textile parts of the negotiations and
are TPLs an issue?
VARGO: I would say, first of all, that textiles
is still meeting today. So, I don’t
have a full report on this round from textiles. More generally in this agreement, we’ll
be trying to build on the kind of textile partnership that already has a base in
the Andean Trade Preferences Act.
Now within the textile area, in negotiations, almost everybody starts out
by asking for TPLs, but they are sensitive in the
And we are very careful in how we approach them. One of the things though that I think
distinguishes the Andean region is that they are fabric producers themselves as
well, so it is perhaps somewhat less of a concern to them than to some other
countries we may be in discussion with.
Regina, it’s Corey again at
Inside US Trade. You mentioned in
your opening remarks that there had been full exchange, there’s now full
exchange of text on the table. And
I wonder if it would affect agriculture, if that includes US offers on sugar and
other TRQ commodities, and likewise for the Andeans that include some of their
sensitive agriculture commodities?
VARGO: At the beginning of the negotiation,
everyone indicated that they we willing to deal on all products. But as you would expect from the
negotiating process you’re familiar with, the normal pacing would be to begin
with the easier products and leave some of the more contentious and sensitive
products for later, and I think the same thing is true here.
Regina, this is Doug Palmer
with Reuters. I just wonder, I mean
you have done a couple of these now…
VARGO: I feel that way… (laughter).
REPORTER: I mean, is there greater uncertainty in
your mind at this point about being able to come away with a successful
agreement that’s going to be satisfactory for
and US industry
than say other negotiations that you’ve been involved in?
VARGO: That’s an interesting question,
Doug. And I would have to say
no. I don’t feel any less
confident, if you will, being able to reach an agreement with these countries
that can work for everybody. I
think we just have to be careful to keep our minds open to some creative
REPORTER: Ok, thanks, thanks very much.
REPORTER: Janet Van
Grasstek, Washington Trade
Report. Is there any concern that
the additional rounds of negotiations could start to run into the expiration of
TPA which expires in the middle of the year and has to be reauthorized?
VARGO: It’s possible that the negotiations…
First of all, I believe the way TPA is written, to use the initial grant of
authority, you actually have to sign before that runs out. The Miscellaneous Trade Bill made clear
that the date we are looking at there is, it’s either June 30 or July 1, I’m not
sure which one, but you have to recall that also under TPA procedures, we need
to provide the Congress with a 90 day notice of intent to sign. So, if we conclude in say, the first
quarter, we could probably make use of that grant, and in the second quarter,
maybe not. So, is there a
possibility, yes, there’s the possibility that we would not conclude in that
timeframe. I think that we’re more
concerned at the table about getting a good outcome that could be widely
supported than trying to meet a forced deadline.
Regina, this is Doug Palmer
again. Do you expect to be around
through the end of these negotiations?
VARGO: Well, Doug, I am not a political
appointee, I am a career appointee.
And since I don’t know when these negotiations are going end, I don’t
know how to answer your question.
But, I have no plans at this point to do anything other than what I’m
doing right now.
REPORTER: Ok, thanks.
Regina, its Corey again at
Inside US Trade. Was there any
discussion this week on a number of the investment problems that have been
raised with respect to Peru and Ecuador and the possibility that if there was no
movement on those issues, that those countries could be left behind? I just…
VARGO: I’m sorry. Could you go back, Corey?
REPORTER: Sure. There’s this issue of some investment
disputes of Peru
and Ecuador that
have been raised as possibly leading to these countries excluded from the
agreement. And I was just wondering
if there was any discussion this week on these issues? Perhaps an update on progress these
countries have made.
VARGO: Yes, now we don’t discuss them in the
context of the FTA directly, but we always take up the full range of bilateral
issues that we have with the countries.
And we certainly do monitor the progress on these investment disputes
because they are extremely important.
particular, has recently appointed a gentleman, hold on a minute… We’ll look around and get you the
specific name, but he’s a man of some stature in
Peru. He’s a former defense minister. And they have put him in the role of
looking into each one of these disputes and trying to make sure that they are
operating, monitoring progress and looking for ways to move them forward
successfully. His name is, I’ll
spell it for you, it’s Loret de Morla.
And similarly, we’ve reviewed with
their issues are right now too.
REPORTER: (Corey Henry) Do you detect any progress
Ecuador? Did they give you any sort of research
that they were trying to respond…
VARGO: It’s clear
that efforts are underway. The
other thing I’d say is a number of the Ecuadorian cases have actually, are in
the courts right now.
VARGO: If you want to hold on for one
VARGO: Ok, go
REPORTER: (Doug Palmer) I just want to understand,
is the working goal right now to try to finish at the March round, but it’s just
uncertain whether you will be able to do that or not? Is that sort of the target…
VARGO: I think that’s probably a pretty good
description. Yeah, I think we’ve
laid out two more rounds, but we don’t want to be overly confident that two more
rounds will be sufficient. So, you
know, we’ll continue. This is a
work in progress and we’ll continue to assess.
REPORTER: Ok, thank you.
VARGO: But we’re hoping this doesn’t turn into
the eternal negotiation, you know… (Laughter). We’re looking at this kind of step
Joanna Ramey again at Fairchild Publications. Regarding CAFTA, do you have any latest
insight on the timing of sending that to the hill? And also the DR conclusion and the
latest on the spat with the high-fructose syrup soda act?
VARGO: I guess I can say two things. One is I haven’t been in
Washington. There may have well been some
discussions on the timing of the CAFTA legislation, but that would be handled by
our legislative affairs, and you might want to direct that question to them,
because it hasn’t been my focus this week.
I am, though, aware of some of developments on the high
fructose corn syrup front with the Dominican
I believe it was either Thursday or Friday morning that the three major
political parties put out a kind of manifesto with a number of points in
it. One was that they all agreed
that the high fructose corn syrup tax should be repealed. And that they also thought it was
appropriate that the government should look at ways to reinforce the
competitiveness of the Dominican
Republic sugar industry. I don’t think those are their exact
words, so please take those as kind of trying to capture the idea. On that basis, the Senate took the issue
up, I believe in session on Friday.
Suspended that work to focus more on that second aspect: what is it the
government could do to, that would be WTO and CAFTA consistent, that could
enhance the competitiveness of their sugar industry. And they are going to resume, I think,
discussions in the early part of next week.
REPORTER: Is there a deadline that the
US has given the
DR to get this through?
VARGO: We have not given them a specific
REPORTER: Then, how long do you think you’ll
before moving forward on CAFTA?
VARGO: As I said, I’m not privy to it, whatever
is the latest on the CAFTA timing, so I would a great deal of difficulty giving
you a good answer to that question.
REPORTER: Thanks so much.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much you guys.