Negotiators to Meet in Japan, Pressure Mounts to Seal TPP-11 Deal

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By Tom Azzopardi

Representatives from the 11 countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are to meet in Japan later this month with a majority pushing for a final agreement to be reached as quickly as possible.

Sources close to the negotiations told Bloomberg BNA that the meeting will take place in Tokyo during the week of Jan. 21.

Many of those attending hope that the meeting will resolve four pending issues that have prevented countries from reaching a deal to implement the ambitious trade pact, the sources said. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was almost derailed by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement soon after taking office in January 2017.

The meeting could therefore be the last one before heads of states gather to sign the deal, which many expect to happen within a matter of weeks, according to the sources.

“This is going to be in the first quarter of 2018, in other words, in February-March,” Paulina Nazal, director of Chile’s General Directorate of Economic Relations Internationals (DIRECON), told journalists Jan. 4 in Santiago.

“This is the wish of the majority of the countries participating in this process, including Chile,” the official said.

Where, When Not Known

But as yet there is no agreement on when or where a signing ceremonywould be held. It would be the second time the presidents and prime ministers have gathered to ink the deal.

Last November, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, the 11 governments agreed to implement the deal by suspending 20 of the more controversial provisions. Those provisions were largely related to intellectual property rights, which many countries were unwilling to accept given that access to the U.S. market was no longer on the table.

However, plans for a signing ceremony were shelved after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised final-hour objections to the agreement just as his fellow heads of states were gathering.

After that impasse, the 11 countries announced that further negotiations were required to resolve issues particular to four countries: cultural exemption (Canada), state-owned enterprises (Malaysia), foreign investment in the coal industry (Brunei), and trade sanctions in labor disputes (Vietnam).

In the intervening weeks, delegations from several of the member countries, including Mexico and Vietnam, will have face-to-face and virtual meetings, to iron out their differences with the aim of reaching a deal by March 31, Chile’s chief negotiator on the trade pact, Felipe Lopehandia, told Bloomberg Law Dec. 27.

Significant progress has made in resolving the pending issues. “We are practically in the final stages,” Nazal said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Azzopardi in Santiago at correspondents@bloomberglaw.com.To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bloomberglaw.com

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