TPP talks end on high note

Via New Straits Times

By Rupo Damodaran

The 18th Round of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deliberation ended here yesterday on a high note of confidence that the talks can be concluded by the end of the year.

Malaysia's chief negotiator J. Jayasiri said the negotiators had been working hard to meet the deadline as agreed by the leaders.

"We were able to narrow differences in the more difficult issues, paving the way for possible early closure on some of them," he said at a media briefing here yesterday.

More than 650 officials from the 12 countries+ including Malaysia, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam took part in the Kota Kinabalu round from July 15 to yesterday.

Over the past two days, Japan, which joined in as the 12th member, was briefed on the state of play in the negotiations.

"Japan participated actively in the negotiations, demonstrating its readiness to integrate quickly into the negotiating process."

With Japan on board, the market access for goods and services has widened to 793 million people with a combined gross domestic product of US$27.5 trillion (RM88 trillion), which is the size of one-third of global trade.

Jayasiri said 13 negotiating groups met here to discuss investment, non-conforming measures, competition, market access, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, financial services, e-commerce, temporary entry, intellectual property rights (IPR), environment, government procurement and legal and institutional issues.

"On the more challenging subjects of intellectual property, environment and state-owned enterprise, negotiators are exploring further options to advance work in the negotiating groups."

On the issue of the hotly debated IPR, Jayasiri said there was no conclusion as yet on the pharmaceuticals.

"Malaysia has its own position. We are concerned with the current proposal and we have our position take in the negotiation... I can't give our official position (due to the confidentiality clause)," he said.

"Our position is to find a balance which will take care of Malaysian concerns."

As to market access for industrial, agriculture, textiles and apparel products, he said negotiators would accelerate discussions to achieve "comprehensive liberalisation".

Although significant progress was made, Jayasiri cautioned during the 18th Round that there were still a number of issues that required further work.

"We are now entering a stage where negotiators have to deal with the more difficult and sensitive issues. With a clear plan, we are hopeful that more issues can be closed in the next round."

Malaysia also hosted a stakeholders forum last Saturday, attracting more than 200 participants. Papers on a wide range of issues of interest and concern were presented.

Transparency and accountability were the main concerns of the public, and towards this end, Jayasiri said, the International Trade and Industry Ministry would be hosting an Open Day to address public queries and concerns.

The 19th Round of the TPP negotiations is scheduled to be held from Aug 22 to 30 in Brunei.

Ainsley Shea