Trade ministers announced that they will continue negotiations over several unresolved provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a four-day meeting in Maui, Hawaii that concluded July 31. Trade ministers representing the 12 Pacific Rim countries included in the free trade deal remain optimistic about negotiations and said in a joint statement that they are “more confident than ever that TPP is within reach.”
One of the major sticking points reportedly centers around intellectual property protections for biologics. The U.S. reportedly attempted to secure 12 years’ data protection for pharmaceutical companies, while Australia is insisting on five years. Observers suggest the agreement will fall somewhere between five and seven years’ data protection. U.S. stakeholders concerned with a deal that only includes five years of data protection could threaten to round up enough opposition in Congress to stymie the deal.
Other points of contention arose over agricultural issues and the auto industry. The U.S. is pushing for greater access to Canada’s dairy market, but Canada is concerned that could cause instability in its prices. Australia is seeking increased access to the U.S. sugar market, while the U.S. is trying to limit large increases in sugar imports. Meanwhile, the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Japan are hashing out “rule of origin” and other auto industry issues.
Once all 12 trade ministers agree to a deal, Congress will have 90 days to review and approve it. If talks continue beyond August, pushing the review period deep into the fall or winter, the deal is likely to become front and center in the U.S. presidential campaign. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would face intense pressure from labor unions to disavow the deal, along with the 28 House Democrats who supported legislation to fast-track passage of the agreement. It could also become a problem for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is up for re-election in October.
The TPP will govern foreign exports, imports, and investment implicating several major sectors of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing, intellectual property, textiles and apparel, telecommunications, agriculture and others. It will also cover labor, employment, and environmental issues. The TPP will initially cover 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Collectively these countries represent 40 percent of the global economy.