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TPP negotiators meet to discuss freezes to text after U.S. pullout

  • September 21, 2017
  • , Kyodo News , 9:45 a.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — The chief negotiators of the 11 remaining countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact began two-day talks Thursday to discuss freezes to parts of the deal following the withdrawal of the United States earlier this year.


The 11 countries aim to reach a broad agreement to implement the pact by November, but member countries have made over 50 requests for freezes to the original text, in particular clauses that had been introduced at the request of the United States.


Japan hopes to make minimal changes to the original document, in hopes that the United States may eventually return to the pact, according to Japanese negotiation sources.


“I hope in this meeting…we can take a big step forward towards the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit” in Vietnam in November, Japanese chief negotiator Kazuyoshi Umemoto said at the outset of the meeting in Tokyo, which was open to the media.


“I would like to once again emphasize the crucial importance of establishing…a free, multilateral trade system based upon high-standard rules in the Asia-Pacific, which really fits the 21st century,” Umemoto said.


“It is also important to continue to pursue the possibility of the United States coming back to this framework and for that purpose it’s very important to implement the TPP as early as possible,” he added.


The talks are expected to cover proposals such as a clause to preserve copyrights and trademarks for 70 years after creators die and a clause that calls on members to open public procurement and works to foreign companies.


Vietnam, which accepted stricter regulations in return for access to huge U.S. market, has also proposed to amend the clause on rules of origin in exports of fabrics, the sources said.


Another issue that needs to be addressed is a clause stating that the TPP pact can only come into force after six countries, accounting for 85 percent or more of the original 12 signatories’ combined gross domestic product, complete domestic procedures. So far, just Japan and New Zealand have ratified the free trade deal.


As the United States alone represents more than 60 percent of the initial members’ GDP, it is impossible for the pact to come into effect under the present terms.


The outlook for the TPP has been clouded since U.S. President Donald Trump announced the country was pulling out shortly after he took office in January, saying the multilateral pact hurts American jobs and that he prefers bilateral trade negotiations.


The TPP was signed in February 2016 by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — covering around 40 percent of the global economy.

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