USTR cites progress in recent TPP negotiations

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2015 - The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says negotiators at the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  talks in Hawaii made “substantial progress” on rules related to trade in agriculture and other issues, bringing the “high-standard trade agreement” one step closer to completion.

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In an update on the negotiations, USTR said progress was made toward eliminating tariffs, which in some TPP countries exceed 70 percent for some agricultural exports, while at the same time addressing U.S. import sensitivities. No mention was made of U.S. efforts to persuade Canada to open its dairy markets to more competition, or to get Japan to ease import levies on its “sacred” agricultural products including, rice, wheat, beef and pork. The release was also silent on Australia's campaign to export more sugar to the U.S. Each of these issues has been mentioned as a roadblock to a TPP agreement.

In a nod toward some Democrats who object to the proposed treaty among 12 Pacific Rim nations, USTR said “significant strides” were made on a chapter that would require countries wishing to send goods to the U.S. to “provide critical environmental protections.” Progress was also made on provisions guaranteeing the rights of workers as outlined by the International Labor Organization.

“Collectively, these steps are critical to “expanding the winner's circle” by giving more Americans a fair shot in tomorrow's global economy,” USTR said in the release. “By increasing U.S. exports and giving the United States a leading role in writing the rules of the road for tomorrow's global economy, TPP will support more well-paying jobs here at home, enhance the economic prospects of middle-class American families, and strengthen U.S. national security.”

USTR also cited progress toward eliminating non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports, including permit and licensing barriers on agricultural and other products, as well as “unjustified trade restrictions that affect new U.S. technologies, including biotechnology. In addition, the office said strides were made toward reaffirming World Trade Organization commitments on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and avoiding any SPS restrictions that are not based on science.

Negotiators from the countries involved in the talks are now formalizing the progress made in Hawaii and looking for “common ground” toward concluding negotiations, USTR said. The talks have now been going on for five years.

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