NUSA DUA, INDONESIA – Leaders gathering for the Trans-Pacific Partnership summit are likely to announce their countries are “on track” to complete their work while noting “significant progress” in various fields of the free trade accord, their draft statement showed Monday.
At the same time, however, ministers from the 12 countries in the TPP negotiations acknowledged they had not yet come to an agreement on “treatment of the most sensitive products” in the field of tariff eliminations, the draft report obtained by Kyodo News said.
The ministerial report to their leaders, which is to be released at the TPP summit on Tuesday, says the negotiators will construct a “single tariff schedule and have common rules of origin.” It says the ministers will stand ready to bring more countries into the TPP “following the completion of the initial agreement.”
The draft for Tuesday’s summit on creating the sweeping free trade regime also says the final TPP agreement should take into account “the diversity of our levels of development,” indicating developing countries would be given special consideration in meeting targets in some areas, such as investment rules.
Aiming to conclude the pact by year’s end, the 12 members of the TPP talks were initially planning to issue a statement saying their work had been “substantively finished” under the strong guidance of the United States.
But the draft has been revised in the face of opposition from other countries who say the statement does not reflect the actual state of the talks, negotiation sources said.
The draft statement also says: “Ministers and negotiators have made significant progress in recent months on all the legal texts and annexes on access to our respective goods, services, investment, financial services, government procurement and temporary entry markets.”
It also refers to the growing interest in the TPP by other countries in the region in the wake of China and South Korea studying the possibility of joining the partnership.
“We are encouraged by the growing interest in this important negotiation and are engaging with other Asia-Pacific countries that express interest in the TPP regarding their possible future participation,” it says.
The TPP talks have been progressing amid stalled talks under the World Trade Organization, while Asia-Pacific economies seek eventually to create a free trade area covering the entire region.
“We see the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with its high ambition and pioneering standards for new trade disciplines, as a model for future trade agreements and a promising pathway to our APEC goal of building a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific,” the draft says.
The TPP trade ministers say in the draft report to the leaders that they “are moving closer to finalizing” a deal, which the leaders have agreed to strike by the end of the year.
The ministers “continue to explore mutually acceptable solutions on the remaining issues,” according to the report, obtained Monday.
It says the ministers tackled these remaining issues — market access, financial services, government procurement, investment, temporary entry and labor — at their meeting in Bali over the past few days to prepare for the summit.
It adds that the meeting has been “productive” and they are still aiming for an “ambitious, balanced, 21st century agreement.”
The report also says newer members, such as Japan, Mexico and Canada, have successfully integrated with the negotiations and attributes this partly to their “serious efforts . . . to contribute constructively toward an ambitious and timely conclusion.”
It tries to allay concerns about the “stakeholders,” such as businesses and nongovernmental organizations, saying “the ministers will continue to seek to craft an agreement that appropriately and fairly balances this range of interests to achieve a comprehensive and transformative agreement with broadly shared benefits.”
The negotiators have made “significant strides” to ensure the agreement will achieve five main aspects — provide comprehensive market access, be a regional agreement, be a “living” agreement, deal with cross-cutting, and address new trade issues, it says.
On market access, the report said that the ministers have agreed on a timeline to speed up their negotiations to achieve an overall package.
It said access to services and investment markets is being negotiated on a “negative list” basis, which assumes access unless countries take exception.
The 12 TPP members — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — have been holding a series of meetings on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali.
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