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U.S., Trans-Pacific Partners Move Toward Concluding Trade Deal
August 10, 2012

By MacKenzie C. Babb
IIP Staff Writer
August 9,  2012

A man speaking, flags in the background
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis answers questions from the media in February in Manila, Philippines.

The United States and its fellow Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) members are making significant progress toward concluding a comprehensive trade deal set to boost economies and create jobs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, according to Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis.“We’ve got a lot more work to do, but with the momentum that we’ve had and with the single-minded purpose that the nine TPP countries have approached the negotiations so far, I’m very confident that we are on track to realizing the dream of the TPP, which is concluding a high-standard, 21st-century agreement that serves as the platform for regional integration in the Asia-Pacific,” Marantis said August 8 in remarks at the Wilson Center in Washington.

He said that since the United States joined partnership talks in November 2009, the group has made remarkable progress in negotiating an agreement that aims to support new jobs, strengthen regional relations and eventually create a free-trade area. Marantis commended the deal for also setting modern trade standards, including ensuring worker rights and protecting the environment.

Heading into the 14th round of negotiations, to be held September 6–15 in Leesburg, Virginia, the partners are focusing on a number of key themes. They are developing an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that covers not only goods, but also traditional and emerging services. Marantis said the group is working to address nontariff barriers to trade by promoting regulatory coherence.

The partnership also aims to better integrate small- and medium-sized enterprises into global trade. Calling these businesses “the backbone of our economy,” the primary source of jobs in the United States and the largest group of U.S. exporters, Marantis said their participation in the regional trade agreement will add significant value for all partners.

He said the group is working to address not only existing issues, but also emerging ones. Partners are negotiating disciplines that will help to level the playing field between state-owned enterprises and their private-sector counterparts. Similarly, in the area of digital trade, they are trying to guarantee the free flow of information and to enshrine intellectual property rights by obligating countries to strike a balance between copyright protections and fair use for reporting, research and scholarship.

Marantis said the partners are discussing a range of trade and environment issues, and that the United States has put forward a conservation proposal that seeks to address illegal trade in wildlife, logging and fisheries. He said it is something the country has never done in a trade agreement before.

The TPP trade ministers are scheduled to meet in September on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, to discuss next steps for the partnership as the latest round of negotiations begins in the United States.

The partnership was created in 2006 by Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, and has since grown to include Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. Mexico and Canada were nominated for membership in June, and are on track to join the partnership pending domestic consultation procedures by current members’ governments.