MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - The long-discussed Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), which will strengthen ties between the 12 nations of the Pacific Rim that constitute roughly 40 percent of the world economy is looming closer as trade ministers of Australia, the United States and another ten countries open negotiations in Sydney Saturday.
The talks are hosted by Federal Trade Minister of Australia Andrew Robb. "We have got a wonderful opportunity to engage with 12 major economies, a third of world trade, in a more seamless way," Mr. Robb said, as quoted by Australian 7News TV Channel. The finalized project, agreed upon by the 12 nations, may be expected as early as 2015, according to the Australian Minister. "Now, this weekend three days of more consultations, hopefully will move us to a point where this thing can be completed sometime next year for the benefit of the region," he said.
The so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has been negotiated since 2005, and is one of the top foreign trade priorities for the Obama administration. This June the US President expressed hope that key contradictions between the US and Japan that have been contributing to delays in striking the multilateral deal for years will be resolved by November, the Economic Times reports. The current stage of negotiations therefore may be crucial in pushing the process forward.
Mr. Robb also told the media that the ministers have a "very big programme" for the next three days of negotiations. In his words, the agreement in its finalized version will provide “less regulation, less protection, mutual recognition of standards, reducing approval times”, and such liberalization will boost the region’s growth by decreasing expenses and stimulating services and finance as well.
The Australian government hopes to increase the nation’s share in the agricultural goods markets of the other 11 countries. However, Mr. Robb notes, “it's about so much else. In particular, 80 per cent services make up our GDP. And this focuses heavily on a 21st century agreement which opens up the opportunity for us to engage with those services across the region.”
US Trade Representative Mike Froman said "the issues left at the end are often times the most challenging but now is the time to start working through those and finding solutions. We've got some work to do and the table is set in a way that will allow us to make progress on these difficult remaining issues," quoted the Economic Times.
There is a fair amount of controversy around the negotiated agreement. Recently, the media reported a so-called ‘secret deal’ allegedly outlined by representatives of the 12 nations. Some civil activists, mainly in Australia, say trade liberalization in the region will hurt national consumers as prices on certain kinds of medication and other goods will rise because the TPP benefits large international enterprises eager to monopolize on Pacific Rim markets. The activists also call for more transparency on the discussion. Responding to public concern today, Mr. Robb said: "We're not engaging in an exercise to increase the cost, this is just unfounded scaremongering," as quoted by 7News. The Australian Government also said that publication of details on the TPP talks and working papers are up to the nations involved.
The 12 Pacific nations negotiating the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.