SINGAPORE: The 16th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multilateral trade negotiations concluded here yesterday after 10 days of intensive talks.
The negotiations involved some 600 delegates from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the US, Singapore and Vietnam.
To realise the TPP leaders’ desire to conclude the long-drawn negotiations this year, the chief negotiators and 20 working groups pursued their talks with renewed focus and vigour.
The negotiating teams made solid progress in bridging the gaps in a number of key areas.
Good progress was made in regulatory coherence, telecommunications, customs and development and remaining work in these areas will be taken up in negotiation rounds closer to the finalisation of the agreement.
Talks on services, e-commerce, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and government procurement also continued in earnest.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Singapore’s chief negotiator Ng Bee Kim said there was a distinct sense that negotiations were shifting gears.
“As the host of this round, the Singapore team was committed to invigorating negotiations such as by exploring fresh configurations for talks.
“One innovation was for some working groups to break into smaller informal meetings as part of the official negotiation agenda to tease out the more difficult issues with fresh eyes.
“We are glad that it worked well and helped move our negotiations along,” said Ng, who is also director general of Trade at Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
She said TPP countries recognised that there remained a range of more challenging areas such as intellectual property, environment, competition and labour which would require further deliberations among TPP member countries.
In goods, services, investments and government procurements, Ng said negotiators continued efforts to develop an ambitious and comprehensive market access package that would create new opportunities and maximise TPP’s potential as a regional trade agreement to benefit all member states.
Despite a demanding schedule of meetings, the negotiators also engaged stakeholders to hear their views across a range of areas on proposed elements of the TPP agreement.
The Singapore round drew around 300 local and international stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, labour groups and academia.
The 17th round of the negotiations would be held in Lima, Peru, from May 15 to May 24.
The TPP ministers were also expected to meet on the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia, from April 20. — Bernama