By Randy Fabi and Lesley Wroughton
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 is
ironing 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 WTO meeting will also be held on Bali.
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.
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
Japanese news agency Kyodo said leaders of countries
involved in the TPP negotiations, including Japan, will
reiterate a pledge on Tuesday to conclude a deal within the
year, saying they have made "significant progress" at the APEC
The leaders' statement is unlikely to state the 12 TPP
countries have agreed in principle on the pact but is expected
instead to say they are "on track" to meet the envisioned
deadline, Kyodo reported.
'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.
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".