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By Len Bracken
July 9 — Congress could take up implementing legislation on the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement late this fall, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said July 9.
“I think a realistic timeline for TPP is late fall,” Ryan said, noting that the 12 TPP trade ministers and chief negotiators would meet over eight days in Hawaii in late July. “It's a long enough time that they can reconcile, hopefully, a lot of outstanding issues.”
If an agreement in principle is announced at the July 31 conclusion of the ministerial meeting in Maui, the next major step would be for the administration to notify Congress at least 90 days in advance of the president's intention to formally sign the pact—as required under the recently enacted trade promotion authority (TPA) law.
Ryan said he spoke July 8 with Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative who is leading negotiations for the administration, about the remaining TPP issues. Canadians need to “step up and get serious” about agriculture market access, Ryan said, specifically citing dairy.
Canadian officials have said they would negotiate on sensitive agriculture items—dairy, poultry and eggs—administered by their supply management system, which restricts imports, at the final stage of the TPP talks, which they said could not be reached until TPA was in place.
With pressure mounting, government and industry sources told Bloomberg BNA that Canadian negotiators are preparing options for International Trade Minister Ed Fast to have in hand for the ministerial meeting in Maui that would not dismantle the supply management system but would increase the quota of imports of these items eligible for low tariffs, which is known as a tariff rate quota.
Canadian concessions would likely be targeted to benefit Wisconsin cheese producers, who are represented by Ryan, and New York producers of fluid milk and yogurt whose interests are represented by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the sources said.
Ryan also said the Malaysians need to have a nondiscriminatory policy regarding government procurement as they currently give preference to native Malays under their “bumiputera” system that discriminates against non-Malays, including foreign companies. Negotiations in the mid-2000s between the U.S. and Malaysia toward a free trade agreement broke down in part because of this government procurement set-aside system.
In other TPP news related to Malaysia, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) expressed concern in a July 9 statement that the forthcoming annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons report issued by the State Department will upgrade Malaysia's status. Malaysia's participation in the TPP came into question because its status as a country not doing enough to combat human trafficking in the 2014 report would be prohibited under TPA.
“It is crucial that consideration of Malaysia’s record on human trafficking reflect the realities on the ground and not a glossing over of those realities to assist Malaysia’s participation in TPP,” Levin said.
Language striking this restriction from the TPA law is contained in the House version of the still-pending customs reform and reauthorization legislation (H.R. 644), which senior lawmakers have said would be debated in conference by the House and Senate.
In response to a question during an interview hosted by Politico, Ryan also defended the U.S. policy of pressing for inclusion in TPP of strong intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical manufacturers.
“Should businesses that invest hundreds of billions of dollars into technologies that save our lives and make our lives better have the ability to recoup those investments so they can do more of that—is that what you're asking?”
Ryan said protecting patents and intellectual property were hallmarks of capitalism, adding that these protections have led to the U.S. being a leader in producing life-saving technologies.
“Let's not get the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
In one of the most commercially significant aspects of TPP, the U.S. is seeking a 12-year period of exclusivity for the name-brand companies that develop biologic drugs, as is the case under U.S. law. Manufacturers of generic drugs oppose including exclusivity for biologics in the TPP.
No other TPP country has such a long exclusivity term; and Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam don't have exclusivity laws.
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