WASHINGTON, D.C.: Ministers from 12 Pacific nations have set a date this month for what is hoped will be final talks to clinch a vast Pacific free-trade deal covering 40 percent of world trade, US officials said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“The United States will host a meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Ministers in Atlanta, Georgia from September 30 to October 1,” the US Trade Representative’s office said.
The pact brings together large and growing economies as diverse as the United States, Japan and Vietnam and could help pave the way for broader global trade agreements.
US President Barack Obama has pushed hard for a deal, which is part of his much-vaunted pivot to Asia. The goal is to counterbalance an increasingly assertive China, which is not included in the talks.
Trade ministers failed to wrap up the accord in August in Hawaii, amid disputes on the auto trade and protection for drug-makers and dairy farmers.
That was a blow for Obama—who faces opposition to the deal from fellow Democrats—as it could see the TPP become campaign fodder ahead of November 2016 elections.
With Congress requiring 90 days to review any accord, a vote is now unlikely before 2016, even if a deal can be reached.
Obama on Wednesday called Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose country had voiced concerns about how the origin of some auto products would be defined.
The pair “discussed the status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the importance of bringing the negotiations to a swift conclusion,” the White House said, hinting at a break in the impasse.
The ministerial meeting will be preceded by a meeting of chief negotiators from September 26.
“Trade Ministers and negotiators last met in July and have been making good progress toward resolving the limited number of outstanding issues,” the Trade Representative’s office said.
The meetings come ahead of October elections in Canada. This has the potential to complicate matters.
Canada had voiced concerns about opening up its dairy market to more competition. AFP