NUSA DUA, INDONESIA – Leaders of countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations on Tuesday reiterated their pledge to conclude a deal within the year, saying they have made “significant progress” in recent months.
The leaders’ statement, released after their summit in Bali following a separate two-day summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, said they are “on track” to complete the negotiations.
“I believe we have created a major impetus toward concluding negotiations within the year,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after joining the one-day TPP summit.
But he also said the 12 negotiating countries still face some “difficult areas,” such as intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, market access involving tariff eliminations and environment covering fishing subsidies.
Abe said Japan will host a TPP meeting on intellectual property, noting the other nations are expecting Japan to contribute to resolving contentious issues.
Sources said the TPP countries are now arranging a chief negotiators’ meeting in November, with Japan being floated as a host, while also planning to hold a ministerial meeting around the time of the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference in December.
Bridging the difference between developing and developed countries in the TPP talks has been one of the hurdles to hammering out unified standards and concluding a high-level free trade pact.
In their statement, the leaders called for an agreement that takes into account the differing levels of economic development among members.
The TPP ministers’ report to the leaders, released with the leaders’ statement, also stated “agreement remains outstanding on treatment of the most sensitive products in the tariff negotiations.”
Japan became the 12th member of the TPP negotiations in July, following Mexico and Canada, which joined in December.
The ministers’ report stated that the integration of Japan, Mexico and Canada has “served to further strengthen the TPP.”
While the TPP negotiations have taken much attention from the APEC gathering held on Bali, the TPP leaders stated that the envisioned pact is in line with the APEC goal of building a greater free trade area of the Asia-Pacific and would be a model for future trade agreements.
The 12 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.