TPP trade talks narrow down to tough issues
Talks on the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership remained stuck on a handful of tough issues including auto parts and drug protections as trade ministers moved to a second day of negotiations Thursday.
Under heavy pressure to clinch a deal this week after key differences couldn’t be bridged in their July meeting in Hawaii, top officials from the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries were negotiating around the clock in this southern U.S. city.
The representatives of the 12 countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — were seeking to complete talks this week that would form the world’s largest free trade region, its members comprising about 40 percent of the global economy.
But major challenges in three areas remained, according to officials involved in the discussions.
— Meeting pressure from Japan to remove U.S. barriers on auto parts imported from non-TPP countries, against resistance from Mexico and Canada, already major favored suppliers of parts to the U.S. auto industry under the NAFTA trade treaty.
— Opening up the Japanese, U.S. and Canadian markets to rival dairy and processed dairy products from New Zealand and Australia.
— Extending patent protection for increasingly important biologic drugs to eight years, amid concerns this will raise the costs of the drugs and leave them less accessible in poorer countries.
At the end of the first day of ministerial talks, negotiators remained mum about the progress on these key issues amid hope that an agreement could be reached.