By Kevin Lim and Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE Dec 10 An ambitious trade pact
between a dozen countries around the Pacific Rim will not be
finalised this year as hoped, with no agreement on thorny
issues like intellectual property, agricultural tariffs and
The U.S.-backed deal, which Washington wanted to conclude
this year, aims to establish a free-trade bloc stretching from
Vietnam to Chile and Japan, encompassing about 800 million
people and almost 40 percent of the global economy. But
differences over farm tariffs between the United States and
Japan proved to be one of the major roadblocks.
"None of us have agreed on anything," Tim Groser, New
Zealand's trade minister, told a news conference in Singapore on
Tuesday at the end of a four-day meeting of the Trans-Pacific
However, he added: "The outline of a genuine 21st century
agreement is coming into view and, as is always the case in
life, the toughest political decisions will be taken at the
The ministers said they had found possible areas where they
might agree, known as "landing zones" but need to continue
discussions and will meet again next month.
More far-reaching than other deals, the TPP pact is aimed at
going beyond tariffs on physical trade and it will try to
regulate sensitive areas such as government procurement and give
companies more rights to sue.
One problem area is the United States and Japan's
disagreement over Japan's long-stated aims to exempt five
sensitive farm products - rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy
products and sugar - from the scrapping of tariffs.
The two countries held bilateral talks during the Singapore
meeting to try to discuss the issue but have not yet come to any
"Resolving the U.S.-Japan market access questions will be
critical to the success of TPP," said U.S. trade representative
Michael Froman in a news conference on the sidelines of the
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice-minister for Japan's
Cabinet Office, said Japan was still committed to reaching an
"We are now moving toward that goal while conducting
coordination, including on various domestic issues. We are
deepening discussions," he said.
The TPP negotiations, which have run for three years, have
been mired in controversy over a lack of transparency, and
slowed by the conflicting interests of the negotiating
countries, U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups.
No full draft text of the text has been released and few
media briefings by the governments involved have been held to
explain what's left on the table.
The intellectual property chapter has also sparked
disagreement, particularly in relation to increased protection
for pharmaceutical patents due to concerns it could limit access
to affordable drugs in developing countries.
Australia and New Zealand dismissed earlier media reports
that they had given away significant amounts of ground over the
"Our position remains clear, not to agree on a TPP outcome
that undermines our pharmaceutical benefit scheme," said
Australian trade minister Andrew Robb.
"Within that construct, I think we've been very constructive
in terms of the discussions that we've had today," he added.
The full list of those already in the talks is the United
States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore,
Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico and Peru.