24 NOVEMBER 2010:
Over the course of the APEC Leaders’ Conference in Yokohama, TPP side-developments have continued apace, in part due the the Japanese government’s continued interest in the partnership.
The NZ Herald’s coverage of PM John Key’s APEC statements noted that he has drawn a hard line on agriculture, reported as saying that New Zealand ‘will not want
Japan at the table’ if it attempts to exclude agriculture from any trade deal.
He added that Japan would need to enter TPP ‘only on (New Zealand’s) terms’.
To other TPP partners, he urged that they hold firm on existing criteria and conditions rather than relaxing any entry barriers and allowing compromises for Japan to join talks, while reiterating NZ’s desire to negotiate a ‘high-quality, comprehensive’ agreement.
Leading up to the talks, Japan’s nationwide polls showed nearly half of respondents supported Japan joining the TPP. However, Japanese agricultural and forestry workers have demonstrated en masse against the prospect of talks and Japanese PM Naoto Kan’s own ruling Democratic Party have urged him to temporarily abandon the free-trade drive. Ultimately, Japan indicated at the end of APEC that it would not make a decision on joining TPP until June 2011. This may be too late for Japan to join as a negotiating partner however; it may be required to accede to a complete agreement if one is completed.
Meanwhile, at a sideline summit of TPP members, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet confirmed that his country would henceforth participate as a full member of the talks. Previously, it had held ‘observer status’, and had been required to decide before the Auckland round of talks whether it would shift to full membership.
Kan’s appearance at that summit was considered contentious enough in Japan that American officials banned television cameras from attending the meeting. The Herald’s John Armstrong reported that this had annoyed some other delegations to the summit.
A NZ Herald article on Key’s results from APEC (which also included a signal to begin non-TPP negotiations with Russia) and a CNEO piece on Japanese opposition to TPP talks appear below.
25 OCTOBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that Canada has been told by the US and other TPP parties that it is still not ready to enter negotiations.
It is understood the message was conveyed to Canada at a sideline meeting to the Brunei round at the start of October - the rationale being that a 'range of issues' existing partners had asked Canada to address have yet to be satisfactorially resolved. Chief among these are Canada's retention of a supply management system for its dairy and poultry sectors, which has led New Zealand to criticise its bid, and a perception by the US that Canada better needs to address intellectual property rights.
Canada has not stated which specific concessions it would make in its dairy sector or elsewhere, were it to gain membership.
In Brunei, Vietnam was also urged to decide ahead of the fourth round of talks in New Zealand whether or not to join as a full negotiating partner - to date, its status has been that of an 'associate member', which has saved it some of the responsibilities and commitments of full negotiating partners. Officials have not been specific as to what would occur if Vietnam could not give an undertaking as to full membership before the December round.
The US source IUT spoke to was also non-specific as to any role for Japan in the near future in TPP talks . They were clear that no informal discussion between Japan and the US has occurred to date, and indeed suggested that Japan may be perceived much as Canada - a potential party with too many domestic hurdles at present to be seen as a viable partner by members with strong agricultural sectors. It was also suggested that as the talks become more robust, US negotiators are keen to set a cap on the current nine negotiating members, requiring other states to accede in the future.
8 OCTOBER 2010: Democratic Congressman David Wu has written an open letter to Barack Obama, calling for all US trade agreements under negotiations, particularly the TPP, to promote and uphold human rights.
Wu's letter observes that talks such as the TPP should be used as an opportunity to advance democracy and the rule of law in other member countries, and points to the so-called 'democracy clauses' in other trade agreements around the world (including the integration agreements for the EU and MERCOSUR), that the US could follow as an example.
In the TPP context, he points in particular to the presence of Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam in talks - all three of whom have been cited in the past for arbitrary limits on freedom of speech, the press, religious freedom, and assembly.
The full text of Congressman Wu's letter can be read here.
22 SEPTEMBER 2010: Vietnam's News Agency reports the newly appointed Chilean Ambassador to Vietnam, Fernando Urrutia, as saying that Chile and Vietnam are now completing negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement. The two parties held their sixth round of talks in Hanoi last month, and are likely to hold a final round in Santiago in October or November.
Two-way trade between Chile and Vietnam has already increased from US$108 million in 2005 to over US$230 million last year. Vietnam mainly exports oil, coffee, and footwear to Chile while importing processed copper, timber, and wine.
09 JULY 2010: US senators have stated on a visit to Vietnam that the country must allow free and independent labour unions if it was to liberalise trade in a US agreement. Senator Tom Harkin told reporters that guarantees of freedom of organisation would be "an essential part" of any future US trade liberalisation agreement. Harkin is chair of the Senate Committee on Labor.
Vietnam currently bans all labour unions that are independent of the ruling Communist Party. Human Rights Watch reports that as recently as May, individuals who had violated this law were being arrested and detained.
An AFP article on Harkin's visit follows below the break.
22 JUNE 2010: US Representatives Linda Sanchez (California-D) and George Miller (California-D) have written an op-ed in the Huffington Post, framing the TPP talks as an 'excellent opportunity' for Barack Obama to deliver on his trade campaign committments and break away from the NAFTA models of the 1990s onwards. They call for the TPP to build on the initial improvements to the Peru Free Trade Agreement (negotiated for by House Democrats in 2007) by redressing currently 'excessive' foreign investor privileges, more stringent safety and inspection standards for food and manufactured goods, and promote US-based green manufacturing.
It also examines the records of Brunei and Vietnam and calls for the final text to include a democracy clause of some sort, cautioning that their inclusion may otherwise promote sweatshop labour in Asia while damaging industry in the US.
22 JUNE 2010: Reuters have suggested that US exporters will be looking toward Vietnam, a observing member only at both last week's meeting and the Melbourne talks in March, as their biggest coup in successful TPP talks. However, they have also noted lasting unease around the state's current environmental and labour record, as well as that of Brunei's.
USTR Ambassador Demetrios Marantis spoke at Hanoi's Foreign Trade University on June 9 - there, he praised Vietnam's 'determination and acheivement' in building trade and investment ties with America and the global economy, and promised to deal with Vietnam 'frankly and cooperatively' in future trade issues. On the matter of the TPP:
"The eyes of the Asia-Pacific are on you. Some are wondering if Vietnam can do what it takes to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and others are wondering if you should do it. My response to the both these questions is absolutely ‘yes’. Vietnam can; the United States knows from watching and working with you in the past that Vietnam has the strong capacity to meet the international commitments it undertakes. And Vietnam should do what it takes to be part of the TPP, because your participation will enhance your own competitiveness and further your integration into the global economy.
"TPP partners are taking a new approach to trade negotiations – a 21st century attitude that reflects how companies from Hanoi to Houston will do business in the future. We want to ensure that small businesses benefit from this agreement, that it promotes development and regional integration and address key issues such as worker rights and environmental protection and conservation. These are priorities not only of the Obama trade agenda but of every forward-looking nation.
"The United States hopes that TPP will eventually grow to include countries across the Asia Pacific region. But to achieve something so ambitious, it is important to start with a group of like-minded countries. And we are exceedingly pleased that Vietnam is among them. As part of the TPP from the beginning, Vietnam will have the chance to shape the rules of what will become the most significant trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific. From our rich, recent history, there is every reason to believe that, through the TPP, Vietnam and the United States will continue to achieve together things that seemed impossible not long ago."
Reuters also noted that US business group stakeholders were seeking pledges both for a conclusion of talks by the time of the Hawaii APEC conference in November 2011, and for all parties not to impose any new barriers to trade while negotiations continue (ie: the "Buy American" provision of last year's stimulus bill).
4 JUNE 2010: Following a call by the USTR for submissions for a proposed TPP environmental review, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends Of The Earth US, and The Sierra Club have written a nine-page submission urging for negotiators to ensure that all imports of wood, wildlife or products thereof meet the standards and laws of their country of origin. The groups have argued that a strongly-worded agreement could curb illegal regional trade in these products. In doing so, they hope that the TPP will take its cues from the 2008 US Lacey Act, which currently governs US prohibitions on illegally sourced fish, wildlife, and plant products.
The submitting groups are particularly worried about observing member Vietnam and prospective member Malaysia's reputations for illegal logging, as well as Chile and Peru's issues with illegal trade in fish. Inside US Trade reports that the environmental review will continue throughout negotiations, with a final report to be produced at their conclusion.
The groups additionally seek a scale-back of the ability for private entities to challenge government decisions in investor-state disputes, saying that these run against the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest. Their full letter can be read here.
2 MAY 2010: NZ negotiators confirm that the second round of TPP talks will take place in San Franscisco in the second week of June 2010. Several groups have come away from the first round of talks in March assigned to look at certain clusters of topics, with a view to preparing papers on those topics for the June negotiations. Horizontal issues covered to date include those arising from the TPP's regional approach (cutting through the 'spaghetti bowl' of differing regulations in the existing bilateral FTAs) , development issues relating to Vietnam and other developing nations that an agreement may expand to later, and how to create a 'living' agreement that can accomodate new parties and new issues.
Other points of note:
- Vietnam currently holds 'associate member' status in the talks, and has three rounds of meetings to decide whether it stays as a full member or withdraws.
- Columbia, Canada, and Malaysia have all expressed interest in potentially joining the talks at a later date.
- The reciprocal status accorded to goods and services between Australia and New Zealand under ANZCERTA will not be extended to other parties, as the relationship is seen as unique and contains 'no-go' areas for the US.
An article in the Asian Times by US-based economist Anh Le Tran has highlighted the extent to which Vietnam's free trade obligations have aggravated its widening trade deficit (12.8% of GDP in 2008). Le Tran argues the situation is exacerbated by a lack of supporting industries to allow it to extract greater benefits from its current exports (primarily garment and footwear, currently very reliant on imported raw materials), as well as an affluent middle class with a healthy appetite for imported goods. As a result, Vietnam's scope for macroeconomic maneuvering to contain inflation has been very limited. A TPP agreement may limit this further: note the USTR report on Vietnam's trade barriers for 2010, which expresses concern about a draft regulation issued late last year to establish a price registration and stablisation regime over a broad range of goods and services.
Article follows beneath the break...
APRIL 2 2010: The possibility of a broad regional trade agreement in the Pacific is reportedly leading Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to consider reopening the market access arrangements in their own existing bilateral trade agreements. While sources are suggesting this is being done with an intention of creating a single, unified market access schedule to eliminate a 'spaghetti bowl' effect ahead of a TPP Agreement, a USTR official has already expressed doubts about reopening these agreements at a sensitive time. An Inside US Trade story follows below the break...
The Office of the United States Trade Representative has just released its annual 'hit list' for 2010 on subsisting trade barriers in its trading partner countries. All seven of its current negotiating partners in the TPP are reviewed, with all having particular areas where the US argues further reform, liberalisation, or transparency is needed. These include pharmecutical goods, audiovisual and media services, tariff barriers, investment rules, e-commerce, and legal services. All 2010 USTR profiles can be found on the respective country page on this site, and below.
USTR report on NZ's Foreign Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Australian Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Chilean Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Brunei's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Singapore's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Peru's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Vietnam's Trade Barriers, 2010
BRUSSELS, 2 March 2010 (Reuters) - The European Union has agreed to start
negotiations with Vietnam on creating a free-trade agreement between the
27-nation bloc and the southeast Asian country, the EU's executive said
March 21, 2009. VNBusinessNews - Viet Nam has been officially approved to taken part in Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations as a “partnering member,” according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.