12 Pa­cific coun­tries seal huge free trade deal

Enterprise - - International News -

Twelve Pa­cific rim coun­tries have sealed a deal on cre­at­ing the world’s largest free trade area, de­liv­er­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama a ma­jor pol­icy tri­umph.

The deal on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, led by the United States and Ja­pan, aims to set the rules for 21st cen­tury trade and in­vest­ment and press China, not one of the 12, to shape its be­hav­ior in com­merce to the TPP stan­dards.

“Af­ter five years of in­ten­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions, we have come to an agree­ment that will cre­ate jobs, drive sus­tain­able growth, fos­ter in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment, and pro­mote in­no­va­tion across the Asia Pa­cific Re­gion,” said US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man.

The hard-won deal to cre­ate the world´s largest free-trade area, en­com­pass­ing 40 per­cent of the global econ­omy, came af­ter five days of round-the-clock talks in an At­lanta ho­tel.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who made the TPP a pri­or­ity of his sec­ond term, said the ac­cord reached in Georgia “re­flects Amer­ica´s val­ues and gives our work­ers the fair shot at suc­cess they de­serve.”

“When more than 95 per­cent of our po­ten­tial cus­tomers live out­side our bor­ders, we can´t let coun­tries like China write the rules of the global econ­omy,” Obama said in a state­ment. “We should write those rules, open­ing new mar­kets to Amer­i­can prod­ucts while set­ting high stan­dards for pro­tect­ing work­ers and pre­serv­ing our en­vi­ron­ment.”

More than 18,000 taxes im­posed by var­i­ous coun­tries on US prod­ucts will be elim­i­nated thanks to the part­ner­ship, he added.

The ac­cord in­volves sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket open­ings from Canada, the United States and Ja­pan but also sets con­tro­ver­sial new pa­tent stan­dards for cut­ting-edge bi­o­logic drugs and de­mands coun­tries like Viet­nam, Mex­ico and Malaysia im­prove la­bor stan­dards.

“This agree­ment in my view is truly trans­for­ma­tional,” said Canada Trade Min­is­ter Ed Fast.

“The mag­ni­tude and im­por­tance of rules for 21st cen­tury is­sues can´t be un­der­scored enough.... It will shape the fu­ture for many trade agree­ments in this 21st cen­tury.”

The talks went four days past dead­line to re­solve con­flicts over Canada and Ja­pan open­ing up their dairy mar­kets to New Zealand ex­ports, and ob­jec­tions from Aus­tralia, Peru and Chile to the US push for longer bi­o­logic pa­tent pro­tec­tions.

Trade min­is­ters said the land­mark deal ad­dresses new is­sues like data trade, for­eign in­vest­ment pro­tec­tions and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty that have not been cov­ered in mul­ti­lat­eral trade pacts of the past.

New Zealand Trade Min­is­ter Tim Groser said his side of the talks went to 5 am Mon­day morn­ing be­fore an agree­ment was set.

The deal is “pro­foundly im­por­tant and ben­e­fi­cial to the gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple in our re­spec­tive coun­tries,” he said.

The ac­cord still must be signed and rat­i­fied by the re­spec­tive coun­tries, which also in­clude Sin­ga­pore and Brunei.

In Canada, fac­ing a na­tional elec­tion in two weeks, and in the United States, with elec­tions com­ing in one year, that could prove par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult.

US mem­bers of Congress have al­ready warned that they will not rat­ify any deal that gives up too much in US in­ter­ests.

Pow­er­ful Sen­a­tor Or­rin Hatch warned Mon­day that he will scour the deal “to de­ter­mine whether our trade ne­go­tia­tors have dili­gently fol­lowed the law so that this trade agree­ment meets Congress´s cri­te­ria and in­creases op­por­tu­nity for Amer­i­can busi­nesses and work­ers.”

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