Wed, Aug 12, 2015 - Page 15 News List

US ‘gave up’ in TPP talks: Japan economics minister

Reuters, TOKYO

Japan has expressed concern about a loss of momentum in talks on a pan-Pacific trade pact after participants failed to agree to meet again this month to try to clinch a deal that would cover 40 percent of the global economy.

Ministers from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would stretch from Japan to Chile, fell short of a deal at talks last month on the Hawaiian island of Maui, despite early optimism.

Japanese Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira Amari, in a blogpost circulated yesterday, also questioned why the US appeared to have lacked its usual “stubborn persistence” at those talks, despite a willingness by some countries to stay to try to reach an agreement.

“The reason I stressed ... that we should meet again this month, was because each country might lose interest and [the talks] would go adrift,” Amari wrote.

“If they lose interest, it would take considerable time and effort to get motivation back to the original level, because the key to success is whether each country can maintain momentum towards an agreement,” Amari added.

Amari said that the US was vague about a concrete time frame and it appeared its negotiators needed a break.

Amari reiterated that a dispute over intellectual property protection for data used to develop biologic drugs, which Washington insists should be 12 years, and gaps over access to member countries’ dairy markets — a key issue for New Zealand — were major sticking points.

“What every country thought was strange was that the United States did not show its usual stubborn persistence this time, but simply gave up,” he wrote, adding that the US negotiators seemed to have judged that agreement could not be reached in a day or two.

Meanwhile, labor activists worry the TPP negotiation will prioritize corporate profits over workers’ rights and pressure governments to bow to the will of investors.

Campaigners for workers’ rights complain that they have been denied a voice in the trade talks, and have raised concerns about part of the deal that would allow corporations to sue governments for the potential loss of future profits.

“The investor-state dispute settlement provisions in this massive trade deal ... if it’s passed, binds them to a convoluted logic that allows multinational corporations to sue ... if a government passes a law or regulation that protects its people to the possible detriment of sales,” Solidarity Center executive director Shawna Bader-Blau said.

“Corporate rights are treated as portable, binding and protected by enforceable laws in global trade agreements, but not so human rights,” Bader-Blau said at the opening of a migrant labor conference on Monday hosted by Solidarity Center in Bogor, 60km south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Speaking before more than 200 labor and migration experts from 45 countries, Bader-Blau said that while investor rights are protected, human rights are “relegated to unenforceable side agreements, aspirational multilateral protocols, spotty national laws and no accountability.”

“Sitting here in Asia, you cannot help but think of slavery on ships, mass graves, the US government’s disastrous upgrade of Malaysia in its trafficking in persons report — enormous desperation fueling enormous wealth,” she said.

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