| NUSA DUA, Indonesia
NUSA DUA, Indonesia Oct 8 The United States
maintained it hopes to seal an ambitious trade pact on schedule
by year-end despite resistance in some countries and the absence
of President Barack Obama from a regional summit that was to
iron out differences on the pact.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Tuesday
that world trade ministers may discuss the U.S.-proposed
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the sidelines of a World
Trade Organization meeting that starts on Dec. 3, with a goal of
reaching a deal by year-end.
But several outstanding issues remain, he told reporters at
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on the
Indonesian island of Bali, citing issues ranging from
intellectual property to state-owned enterprises, labour and the
environment. The World Trade meeting will also be held on Bali.
Although many APEC leaders have already left Bali, trade
ministers are still in talks over TPP and a joint statement is
expected to be issued later on Tuesday.
"I think there is a consensus that there has been
substantial progress on outstanding issues and there are still
remaining issues that must be addressed," Froman told reporters.
The three-year-old TPP talks, now involving 12 nations, are
aimed at establishing a free-trade bloc that would stretch from
Vietnam to Chile to Japan, encompassing 800 million people,
about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global
A major goal of the Obama administration, the TPP would tear
down trade barriers in areas such as government procurement and
set standards for workers' rights, environmental protection and
intellectual property rights.
Obama had hoped to settle the outstanding issues in
discussions with other leaders at the APEC meeting but was
forced to cancel his visit because of the fiscal standoff and
partial government shutdown in Washington.
"We didn't expect any real breakthrough on TPP in the
meeting, especially with Obama not here. There is some progress
though," said a delegate from an East Asian country, who wished
not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the
The TPP, by seeking unprecedented access to domestic
markets, is proving highly sensitive in developing countries
such as Malaysia and Vietnam, whose political systems could be
shaken by intrusions in areas such as government procurement and
'NOT SUBSTANTIALLY FINISHED'
Proponents call the TPP, the most ambitious trade pact since
the demise of the Doha round of global talks, a "high-standard"
agreement to eliminate tariffs and tackle an unprecedented range
of non-tariff barriers that restrict growth.
Obama has touted the deal by saying that 5,000 U.S. jobs are
created for each extra $1 billion in exports created under the
For the United States, the TPP would complement its shift of
diplomatic and military resources to Asia to tap the region's
fast growth and balance the growing influence of China, which
has not joined the pact.
To its opponents, including a range of advocacy groups
globally, the TPP represents an encroachment of U.S. economic
might that gives big corporations unprecedented powers to
challenge national policies in the name of free trade.
U.S. multinationals like Wal-Mart and Fedex
have warned Washington not to compromise and weaken the trade
pact in order to complete the deal by the end of this year.
"For Wal-Mart, we would like to see a high-quality
agreement, which is that no sectors and no products are
excluded. That there are no compromises that leak into the
process for the purpose of speed," Scott Price, chief executive
of the U.S. retailer in Asia, told Reuters.
More intrusive than other trade pacts, the TPP seeks to
regulate sensitive areas such as government procurement,
intellectual property and the role of state-owned enterprises as
well as giving corporations more rights to sue governments.
In TPP nations such as Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam,
reform-minded leaders are seen as using the pact as external
leverage to break down vested interests and force liberalisation
of protected, inefficient sectors.
The Singapore Straits Times newspaper said a draft statement
to be released on Tuesday shows that leaders will likely report
that TPP talks are not "substantively finished".
Negotiators hope to revive global trade, which has weakened
due to an economic slowdown in China and emerging markets like
India and Indonesia.
The 21 countries of APEC closed out the summit by agreeing
to implement responsible macroeconomic policies that will help
offset the slowdown.
"Global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the
downside, global trade is weakening and the economic outlook
suggests growth is likely to be slower and less balanced than
desired," the group said in a prepared statement.
"We will implement prudent and responsible macroeconomic
policies to ensure mutually reinforcing effect of growth and to
maintain economic and financial stability in the region, and
prevent negative spillover effect."