TPP talks fail again

Issue 

A meeting of trade ministers in Honolulu, Hawaii, over July 28 to 31, failed to reach final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal.

The TPP is a free trade deal being negotiated by countries on the Pacific rim: the US, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Japan. These countries represent about 40% of global GDP.

Key stumbling blocks were over protectionist policies. The US, Mexico and Japan could not find agreement over cars, and the US and Japan disagreed on dairy.

Australia pushed for greater access to US markets for sugar and dairy. It also refused to accept the US demand for the length of the data exclusivity period for biologics (medicines and medical equipment) to be 12 years. Trade minister Andrew Robb publicly said he could not go beyond five years.

Australia was also against the provision that would allow corporations to sue countries if their profits were affected by legislation.

The US had hoped to close the deal last week so the passing of the TPP through Congress could avoid the public scrutiny of the next elections. Canada added to the urgency by also announcing elections. A final agreement will now have to wait until after those elections.

Despite the setback, the participating countries remain positive that the negotiations will continue. In a statement the trade ministers said: “We have made significant progress and will continue work on resolving a limited number of remaining issues, paving the way for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.”

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