In the continuation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership saga, an agreement still hasn’t been reached on the 12-country pact that stands to be the biggest ever free trade deal covering 40 percent of the world economy.
Negotiators from the involved nations just wrapped a round of talks taking place on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and after one week of what U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman called “productive meetings,” still walked away without settling the deal.
Though Congress recently passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) allowing President Obama to introduce trade deals to Congress for an uncomplicated up or down vote sans amendments, the now in place measure failed to propel the deal forward to conclusion as some had hoped it would.
Dairy has been a big sticking point in the deal, according to Reuters, as some of the negotiating nations—New Zealand for example—are reluctant to back a deal that doesn’t further open dairy markets.
The length of time to extend patent protection for pharmaceutical drugs has also prompted dispute as the U.S. is seeking 12 years of protection whereas Australia currently has five and Chile zero, and the poorer countries like Malaysia and Vietnam have concerns about public health if access to cheaper generic versions of drugs is too many years out.
According to Ambassador Froman, “In this last stage of negotiations, we are more confident than ever that TPP is within reach and will support jobs and economic growth.”
President Obama is in a crunch to get the deal settled before he leaves his post in January and, sooner still, before presidential elections “muddy the waters,” as Reuters notes.
“We have made significant progress and will continue work on resolving a limited number of remaining issues, paving the way for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations,” Froman said, adding that the negotiators have committed to building on the meeting’s momentum and will continue to work on formalizing achievements made in Hawaii.
No date for the next round of talks has yet been set.