In early July chief negotiators from the 12-member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met in Ottawa, Ontario, to continue working through technical issues of the various chapters. While the prevailing view is that continuous progress is being made on resolving texts in a number of areas, decisions on several unresolved issues will have to be made at the ministerial levels of the member countries.
In addition, many of the unresolved issues in non-agricultural areas continue to be dependent on the outcome of the ongoing bilateral discussions between the United States and Japan on market access issues regarding agricultural products, particularly the sensitive products (rice, dairy, beef, pork, wheat, barley and sugar) and automobiles. Another round of bilateral meetings between the two countries were held in Washington, D.C. later this month. The TPP negotiations have high stakes for agriculture.
“We see other TPP countries now realizing that Japan is a real problem here, so I think there is going to be added pressure on Japan to add more market access,” said Howard Hill, National Pork Producers Council president. “It could increase our exports to Japan close to another billion dollars.”
The widespread sentiment is that the TPP negotiations need to be completed by the end of the year in order to take advantage of the momentum from multi-year discussions. During discussions with various countries’ negotiators, U.S. private-sector stakeholders once again questioned when the United States will formally consider the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The TPA would give Congress the ability to be more actively engaged in the negotiation process and would give the administration the formal right to negotiate.
In addition to the private stakeholder discussions, the U.S. Grains Council and other U.S. commodity sectors met with the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, a coalition of national and regional producers, processors and exporters who support a more open and fair international trading environment for agriculture and agri-food. Both groups pledged to cooperate and collaborate on achieving aggressive elimination of agricultural market access trade barriers, improve disciplines on addressing sanitary and phytosanitary non-tariff barriers, and improve transparency and cooperation on biotechnology regulations, including low-level presence policies.