Japan and New Zealand confirmed they will aim to reach an agreement with other signatories to move the Trans-Pacific Partnership forward by November despite the withdrawal of the United States.
“What is important now is whether the (remaining) members can share a view about the future direction of the TPP … and we hope to make efforts to reach an agreement” by November when a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will be held in Vietnam, economic and fiscal policy minister Nobuteru Ishihara told reporters after talks Monday with New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay in Tokyo.
Japan and New Zealand are among the 11 remaining Pacific Rim countries pursuing the TPP free trade pact without U.S. involvement, but some countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia, which hope to boost exports to the United States, are believed to be reluctant to put the agreement into force without the world’s biggest economy.
“It is extremely important that the 11 countries unite and be clear about the future of the TPP” despite the “differences in the ideas and motives of the member countries,” said Ishihara, Japan’s point man on TPP negotiations.
The two ministers met as representatives of the 11 states will try to narrow their differences at a TPP ministerial meeting, set to take place Sunday in Hanoi alongside an APEC trade ministers’ meeting that starts Saturday.
“The TPP meeting in Hanoi will be an important meeting as we look to discuss the direction of the TPP,” Ishihara said, adding that Japan and New Zealand will seek to “lead the discussions.”
New Zealand formally ratified the TPP deal Thursday, becoming the second signatory country to do so after Japan, which completed domestic ratification procedures in December.
Among other members, Australia proposed at a recent working-level meeting that the data exclusivity period for biologic pharmaceutical patents be cut to five years from eight years under the original TPP deal.
During TPP negotiations, the United States sought a longer data exclusivity period while Australia argued that longer protection of new biologic drugs from cheaper generic competition would raise the country’s health care costs.
The United States pulled out of the pact following President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
In a related development Monday, the White House said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will travel to Vietnam to attend the APEC meeting.
The new USTR, whose positions include a willingness to further pry open Japan’s agricultural market, was confirmed by the Senate last week and sworn in Monday.
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