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Some Progress at Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks

A free trade pact covering the Asian-Pacific market was discussed by international delegates at the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks (TPP) in New Zealand, but a definitive agreement has yet to be reached.

The next round of talks is scheduled for March 4 through 13 in Singapore.

Hundreds of representatives from 11 countries participated in the U.S.-led negotiations, which included new members Canada and Mexico.

Under discussion at this 15th session of negotiations, were such issues as intellectual property, the environment, and investment. Also debated were the language and mechanism of the hoped-for agreement that has been considered by the TPP since March of 2010.

Earlier in the talks, progress was made on a still-to-be-completed tariff deal on textiles.
Supply chains issues were also advanced, but no unanimously approved agreement had been reached.

Participating in the talks were 11 nations including the U.S., Australian, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Among the sticky, unresolved aspects of the pending agreement was the so-called “yarn forward” rule. For Asian nations hoping for duty-free U.S. entry of their products, the rule requires that all production of yarn and fabric, and the cutting and sewing of finished garments is done in TPP countries. Textile industry trade organizations have lobbied the U.S. to make the “yarn forward” rule mandatory.

U.S. retailers and apparel companies, in search of goods with the lowest costs with highest qualities for import, want textiles and apparel to be accorded the same requirements as other products covered by the prospective TPP free trade treaty.

Nations of the TPP region represent some of the world’s fastest growing economies and a combined gross domestic product of an estimated $21 trillion.

Although some progress has been made at this recently concluded round of discussions, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk believes there’s still a long way to go before an agreement can be concluded. Besides issues relating to textiles and apparel, the TPP talks also covered potential agreements on removing trade barriers on pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.