SINGAPORE – The 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations will hold a ministerial meeting in Singapore between Dec. 7 and 9 with the aim of concluding a deal by year’s end, official sources said.
It will be the stage for the countries to make a final effort toward resolving difficult issues such as tariff eliminations, with Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Chile aiming to eliminate all tariffs while countries like Japan seeking to keep some to protect sensitive domestic industries.
The meeting will be held on the heels of the World Trade Organization’s Dec. 3-6 ninth ministerial conference in Bali.
The United States had sought to hold the TPP ministerial meeting on the same resort island. But with the Doha Round trade liberalization talks under the WTO stalled, the TPP countries have decided to hold it in Singapore, fearing successful conclusion of a TPP agreement could subsequently highlight the WTO’s failure, a government source said.
The 12 countries were arranging the meeting in early December to avoid the Christmas holiday season, while another government source indicated it would have been difficult for TPP minister Akira Amari to attend if the meeting was set in mid- to late December as he will be busy compiling the national budget.
The TPP negotiations on market access that involve tariff eliminations as well as intellectual property that deals with the length of protection, including patent terms of new drugs, have been some of the major sticking points for the member countries.
The negotiators have been continuing to discuss such issues through teleconferences and other means to pave the way for the year-end conclusion, while chief negotiators are expected to hold their meeting in November.
The TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Intellectual property talks
Negotiators from the 12 economies participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks will hold an interim meeting on intellectual property rights next week in Tokyo, it was learned Monday.
At the first TPP-linked meeting to be hosted by Japan since it joined the talks in July, the intellectual property negotiators will try to iron out differences chiefly over drug patents, sources said.
The Tokyo meeting is expected to last a week, they said.
Intellectual property protection is one of the biggest sticking points in the TPP negotiations. Malaysia and other emerging economies have harshly reacted to a U.S. proposal to extend new drug patent protection periods for fear of hindering the promotion of low-cost generics.
Negotiators are expected to discuss measures to strengthen patent rights while taking into account each country’s situation, the sources said, and Japan will be expected to broker a deal.
Earlier this month, the 12 countries confirmed their goal of concluding the talks by the end of this year.