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TPP talks ready to ascend to political level

Kyodo

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators on Saturday cleared the way for political decisions at high-level meetings next month that may lead to the creation of a new free trade pact that will dwarf existing agreements, Japan’s top TPP negotiator said.

“We have succeeded in laying the groundwork before upgrading future negotiations to the political level,” Koji Tsuruoka told a press conference after a four-day meeting of TPP chief negotiators concluded in Washington.

A special TPP summit and ministerial meeting is planned on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia, next month.

“Our goal is to realize an economic partnership that is bigger than World Trade Organization (frameworks) and free trade agreements,” he said.

The negotiators from Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim countries shared the view that political decisions by government leaders and ministers will be indispensable to hammering out a revolutionary deal, said the senior bureaucrat.

Tsuruoka also said the negotiators will request instructions from political leaders for accords involving relatively new sectors of the envisioned trade pact, such as environment and labor.

As for debate on the politically sensitive issue of market access, Tsuruoka hinted that it is premature to comment because working-group talks on the topic are still under way and proceeding on a separate track from the chief-negotiator meeting.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement that ministers from the 12 TPP members will meet in Bali to “discuss pathways forward on remaining issues and plans for concluding the negotiation.”

“Progress toward conclusion was made” on many issues in the chief-negotiator talks in chapters including customs, telecommunications, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, technical barriers to trade, cross border services and labor, the USTR said.