KUALA LUMPUR – Japan is slated to make its debut at the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks on July 23, but its participation will be limited to only three days of the 11-day session set to be launched by the United States and 10 other countries in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, on Monday.
Japan will likely be able to join the 18th round of TPP talks on the afternoon of July 23 after the United States completes its official procedures for granting approval to Tokyo’s participation. The Malaysian session is set to last until July 25.
While the current 11 members in the free trade negotiations are aiming to conclude the talks by the end of the year, Japan is required to accept all agreements reached to date.
The United States and the 10 other countries — Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand — have already wrapped up discussions on such issues as telecommunications and capability development, according to sources close to the talks.
From now, the focus will shift to market access, an area where the strategic interests of the various countries conflict.
The key for Japan will be whether it can secure exemptions from the TPP’s basic principle of tariff elimination, for rice and some other farm products.
Among other difficult issues is the so-called investor-state dispute settlement system, which allows investors to sue foreign governments if they suffer losses in those countries due to regulatory barriers and other obstacles.
Australia, for example, opposes the ISDS mechanism and thus is at odds with Washington. The Australian government argues that it has a sufficient system to address such disputes based on current laws.
In the field of intellectual property protection, the United States wants to extend the patent period for pharmaceutical products.
But Malaysia is strongly opposed, saying that the proposal, if accepted, will likely delay the launch of more affordable generic drugs.
An official at the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry said that the country is trying to cooperate with other nations so that the TPP negotiations will produce balanced results.