The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Pa­cific Rim trade min­is­ters neared the fi­nal spurt of ne­go­ti­a­tions on an am­bi­tious free trade pact, but dif­fer­ences over farm ex­ports and mo­nop­oly pe­ri­ods for next-gen­er­a­tion drugs kept them short of an elu­sive fi­nal deal.

Min­is­ters from the 12 coun­tries ne­go­ti­at­ing the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP), which would cut trade bar­ri­ers and set com­mon stan­dards for 40 per­cent of the world econ­omy, are meet­ing in Hawaii to try to ham­mer out a deal. But ma­jor is­sues are still un­re­solved, in­clud­ing dairy ex­ports and ex­clu­siv­ity pe­ri­ods for biologic drugs. The United States is push­ing for 12 years but Aus­tralia and other coun­tries wor­ried about the im­pact on medicine prices want five. "They are few but very con­tested," Mex­i­can Trade Min­is­ter Ilde­fonso Gua­jardo told Reuters of the out­stand­ing is­sues.

"I think that the ne­go­tia­tors will have to work through the night," Ja­panese Econ­omy Min­is­ter Akira Amari said. A fi­nal news con­fer­ence is sched­uled for 1:30 p.m. on Fri­day (7.30 p.m ET). Min­is­ters ap­peared re­laxed as they were gar­landed with leis for an of­fi­cial photo. "It's tough," said one of­fi­cial in­volved in the talks, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the dis­cus­sions, which seek to meld one-on-one ne­go­ti­a­tions over mar­ket ac­cess with a one-size-fits-all ap­proach to rules. "There are is­sues on dairy, on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, but it's not al­ways clear where things stand. I know about my is­sues but I don't al­ways know what's hap­pen­ing with other coun­tries."

About 650 of­fi­cials from 12 na­tions are tak­ing part in the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Hawai­ian is­land of Maui, with nu­mer­ous lobby groups and stake­hold­ers also at­tend­ing. Ne­go­tia­tors have stressed they are do­ing their ut­most to close the deal this week but also warned that not all in­dus­tries will get what they want, amid a flurry of last-minute ap­peals. U.S. law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing from to­bacco-grow­ing states such as North Carolina, re­newed warn­ings against ex­clud­ing to­bacco from rules al­low­ing for­eign com­pa­nies to sue a host gov­ern­ment.

An of­fi­cial briefed on the talks said there was dis­cus­sion of a U.S.-ini­ti­ated ex­cep­tion in Maui. It would be nar­rower than the broad ex­clu­sion for health and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy sought by Aus­tralia, which is be­ing sued by Marl­boro maker Philip Mor­ris (PM.N) over to­bacco plain pack­ag­ing laws. Aus­tralian Trade Min­is­ter An­drew Robb said on Tues­day that coun­tries were "well down the track" on se­cur­ing pro­tec­tion from lit­i­ga­tion over health and en­vi­ron­ment pol­icy. He said on Thurs­day in­vest­ment rules and sugar re­mained open.

Aus­tralia's bid to ex­port more sugar to the United States has the back­ing of U.S. con­fec­tion­ers and bev­er­age com­pa­nies. "The United States needs to grant Aus­tralia com­mer­cially mean­ing­ful ac­cess," Sweet­ener Users As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Perry Cer­mi­nara, who also han­dles sugar for cho­co­late maker The Her­shey Co (HSY.N), wrote in a let­ter to U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man. U.S. cane­grow­ers op­pose more im­ports, and Mexico is keen to safe­guard its pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to the U.S. sugar mar­ket. "Of course we all have to make an ef­fort, but the ef­fort has to be in line with the prin­ci­ple ... that the very, very, very sen­si­tive prod­ucts are sub­ject to a less ag­gres­sive sched­ule of mar­ket open­ing," Gua­jardo said when asked about sugar.

Dairy is another tricky is­sue, with New Zealand, Aus­tralia and the United States frus­trated with Canada, and New Zealand and Aus­tralia also look­ing for more ac­cess to U.S. and Ja­panese mar­kets. Robb said dairy was mov­ing in "very tiny steps." Aus­tralian Dairy In­dus­try Coun­cil chair­man Noel Camp­bell said dis­cus­sions had gone back­wards in some cases and he had hoped for more progress. Canada hit back at com­plaints that it is hold­ing up a deal. "To say that one par­tic­u­lar is­sue is a stick­ing point to a po­ten­tial deal just isn't based in re­al­ity.

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