Pa­cific trade deal al­most com­plete de­spite de­lay: Kerry

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Asia- Pa­cific coun­tries ne­go­ti­at­ing a vast free-trade pact are “near­ing com­ple­tion” of a land­mark agree­ment, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said Tues­day, days af­ter del­e­gates failed to seal the deal in Hawaii.

Kerry said the 12 coun­tries in­clud­ing the U.S. and Ja­pan ne­go­ti­at­ing the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) had made good progress on reach­ing an ac­cord fol­low­ing talks that ended on Fri­day in Maui, but “as with any com­plex ne­go­ti­a­tion ... there re­mains de­tails to be hashed out.”

“My friends, this is a mo­ment of ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity for the Asia-Pa­cific. We are near­ing com­ple­tion of a his­toric Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship agree­ment on trade,” Kerry said in a lec­ture at the Sin­ga­pore Man­age­ment Univer­sity.

He was mak­ing a half-day visit to the city-state be­fore at­tend­ing the ASEAN Re­gional Fo­rum in Kuala Lumpur.

Kerry praised the trade deal — which will cover nearly 40 per­cent of the world’s econ­omy — as an agree­ment that would have ben­e­fits be­yond pure eco­nomic growth.

The pact would raise la­bor and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, pro­tect in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, de­ter cor­rup­tion and also en­sure free dig­i­tal trade and fair com­pe­ti­tion be­tween state-owned en­ter­prises and pri­vate firms, he said.

“Be­cause ma­jor economies are com­mit­ting to TPP’s high stan- dards, its in­flu­ence will be felt through­out the re­gion. It will send a mes­sage to peo­ple within the TPP and out­side of sup­port for good gov­er­nance, trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity,” Kerry said.

Observers have said the de­lay in se­cur­ing the deal in Maui last week com­pli­cates Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s plans to se­cure the ac­cord this year, and there is a risk of it be­com­ing dragged into the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion de­bate.

The deal, eight years in the mak­ing and vaunted as part of Obama’s “re­bal­ance” to­wards Asia in the face of an in­creas­ingly as­sertive China, faces op­po­si­tion from his fel­low Democrats who see it as too far-reach­ing.

The TPP coun­tries — Aus­tralia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Ja­pan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Sin­ga­pore, Viet­nam and the U.S. — have faced crit­i­cism for car­ry­ing out their ne­go­ti­a­tions in what op­po­nents have charged is in­tense se­crecy.

Its many crit­ics say the pro­pos­als in­di­cate a deal mov­ing more to­ward pro­tec­tion­ism than free trade; one more about cor­po­rate ben­e­fits than boost­ing economies and de­vel­op­ment.

But back­ers say the mod­ern global econ­omy needs new rules of the road to pro­tect in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty-de­pen­dent 21st cen­tury in­dus­tries not cov­ered in tra­di­tional free-trade fo­rums like the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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