SINGAPORE – The 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks will begin small-group discussions to accelerate trade talks on tariff issues, negotiation sources said Thursday.
Countries seeking to protect tariffs on some sensitive farm products, such as Canada, Japan and the United States, will likely begin discussions in the same grouping, while those calling for abolition of all tariffs in principle, such as Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, will be grouped together, the sources added.
The U.S.-led TPP aims at scrapping all tariffs in principle, as it seeks to create one of the world’s largest free trade zones bordering the Pacific.
“We are trying to find creative and flexible ways of arriving at a conclusion that takes on board the sensitivities and concerns of all parties,” one negotiation source said.
Ministers from the 12 TPP countries could not reach a broad agreement at their two-day meeting in Singapore, which wrapped up Tuesday. They decided during the meeting to begin group discussions aimed at breaking the deadlock in the negotiations on tariffs, one of the most difficult areas.
Japan and the United States, the two biggest economies in the TPP, have yet to reach a bilateral agreement on the thorny issues of market access for farm products and automobiles. The wider TPP talks will not advance unless the two solve their problems, trade observers said.
Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, which are opposed to reform of state-owned companies aimed at facilitating fair competition with private companies, are also expected to launch group discussions on the matter, the negotiation sources added.
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