Leaders back free trade pact
Nov 14, 2011 (Menafn - The Brunei Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --HONOLULU (THE BRUNEI TIMES/ANN) -- US President Barack Obama yesterday announced that leaders, including His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, have agreed to a set of "broad outlines" for a nine-nation free trade pact that hopes to set "a new standard for global trade" and boost the participating economies' competitiveness in the world arena.
The monarch along with the leaders of Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Australia, Malaysia and the US agreed to five "defining features" identified by the countries' trade ministers to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a "landmark 21st century trade agreement".
These five features focused on achieving comprehensive market access through the elimination of barriers to goods, services and investment; ensuring a holistic, fully regional agreement; incorporation of strategies targeted in Apec and other fora; addressing new trade challenges such as facilitating investment in innovative and green technology; and empowering the agreement to be able to adapt to future changes such as new issues or members.
"We are confident that this agreement will be a model for other free trade agreements in the future, forging close linkages among our economies, enhancing our competitiveness, benefiting our consumers and supporting the creation and retention of jobs, higher living standards and the reduction of poverty in our countries," the TPP leaders said in a statement.
President Obama, who spoke on behalf of the leaders at a meeting held yesterday morning at the Hale Koa Hotel, said they aimed to complete the legal documentation for the agreement within the next year.
"There are still plenty of details to work out, but we are confident that we can do so. So we've directed our teams to finalise this agreement in the coming year. It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done," he said.
The TPP leaders' statement said that the teams, which have already met for nine rounds of negotiations, will meet early next month and also fix a timetable for the next set of negotiations for 2012.
"At the same time, we recognise that there are sensitive issues that vary for each country yet to be negotiated, and have agreed that together, we must find appropriate ways to address those issues in the context of a comprehensive and balanced package, taking into account the diversity of our levels of development," the statement added. After the TPP meeting and during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit, the US president also touched on the meeting's outcomes. "We're not going to delay. Our goal is to try to get something done by next year. And our hope is that if we can model this kind of outstanding trade agreement, then potentially, you see a lot of others joining in."
Japan has been the latest to evince interest in joining the trade pact negotiations, but Obama said this could be a "tough issue" for the far east nation, naming its agricultural sector as an example.
At a press conference by Apec trade ministers last Friday, China was asked whether it would be interested in joining the TPP following the announcement of Japan's intention. However, China's representative at the press conference said that the country has yet to receive any invitation to join from any of the TPP negotiating parties.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who also present at the TPP meeting, said the TPP was not a "closed clubhouse" and that interested economies need not wait for any invitation to join the TPP.
The US Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the progress made on the negotiations as a "positive step forward".
"An important step to unlocking global economic growth will be expanding trade in the Asia-Pacific, and the TPP holds this key. We hope that leaders from these nine countries would move swiftly on an ambitious timeline to complete an agreement that is comprehensive, enforceable, and makes room for new entrants," said the Chamber's President and CEO Thomas J Donohue in a statement.
The TPP is also hoped to become a vehicle that would lead to the realisation of a greater Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as envisioned by the Apec leaders.
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