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TTP talks will go into the New Year with 'end in sight'

Trade ministers negotiating the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement in Singapore say more talks are needed but the "end is in sight."

It was earlier hoped deal would be settled before the end of this year.

After four days of meetings in Singapore, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser issued a statement on behalf of all ministers saying that "substantial advances" had been made.

“My colleagues and I were able to make good progress across the negotiating agenda, keeping true to the objectives leaders have set for the negotiation. In many areas we have identified potential landing zones that will guide the final phase of work.”

A further meeting will be held in January, when these "landing zone" issues such as market access, especially for agricultural products, environmental protections and intellectual property will remain to be finished.

While more work remains to be done, Mr Groser says momentum is accelerating and he is confident conclusion of a "comprehensive, high quality, 21st century agreement" is in sight.

“However, we will not short change ourselves. We will take as long as needed to achieve a deal that eliminates trade barriers for New Zealand exporters and can advance our vision of regional economic integration in the Asia Pacific. The gains a high quality TPP would generate for the New Zealand economy demand we get this right.”

Most observers now expect an agreement by March. Mr Groser’s comments are backed by US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

"It's easy to get a quick agreement: you just drop the level of ambition. There was no temptation to do that," he says.

The talks in Singapore followed a World Trade Organisation summit in Bali last week at which the 159 member economies agreed to cut customs red tape. It was the first WTO deal since the global trade body was formed in 1995.

The countries negotiating the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

More by Nevil Gibson

Comments and questions

Looking at the leaks the main problem is the USA. Why don't they just drop the USA and have a TPP Agreement without the USA that everybody else would be happy with?

Mainly because everyone wants a "free lunch" from the American market without wanting to pay the bill. Without the shove from the US, Japan et al wouldn't be in this deal and everyone would lose. As it exists, the TPP does little for New Zealand

Interesting Neville , but please spell it out.
Of what is the '" free lunch" composed, and what are the items on "the bill"?

Yes, to be fair the leaks well demonstrate that the USA has not changed since its days of using the CIA to create favourable business conditions by creating banana republics.

The TPP continues to make the USA look exploitative, untrustworthy, and overly bound to its myriad corporate lobbyists.

There are no redeaming qualities in the TPP, it is economic conolisation pure and simple

No mention of investor-state dispute settlement:

In general the ISDR system is coming under increased scrutiny. Public and policymaker concerns in numerous countries have been building alongside awareness of the regime and its implications as large ISDR awards in challenges against common public interest policies increase.

U.S. government insistence that the TPP include an expansive ISDR system is having a boomerang effect. And I am not mainly referring to Australia’s announcement that it will not submit to ISDR in the TPP given the Australian Productivity Commission’s 2010 conclusion that ISDR is not in the national interest.

Rather, policymakers, jurists, and legal scholars are increasingly questioning the very notion of elevating an individual foreign firm or investor to equal status with sovereign nation signatories to have the power to privately enforce a public treaty. In countries with well-functioning domestic court systems, the obvious question is why should there ever be a parallel system of privatized justice, much less one with the structural problems inherent in ISDR?

Studies showing no correlation between having investment agreements with ISDR and attraction of foreign direct investment have diminished the ostensible upside of ISDR-enforced investment treaties for developing countries. ...