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As Japan Mulls TPP, Business Groups Call For Quick Conclusion Of Talks, No Exclusions
Posted: March 8, 2013

SINGAPORE With Japans decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations expected in the near term, 10 business groups from countries currently participating in the talks issued a statement here saying new members must be able to agree to a comprehensive and ambitious deal without product exclusions. The March 8 statement does not mention Japan explicitly but drives home the point that any new participants cannot water down the deal or hold up the negotiations. We welcome new parties to join the TPP but we hope that the inclusion of new participating economies would not slow down the current negotiating process, Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of the Singapore Business Federation, said in the statement. Negotiators should show flexibility and narrow the range of differences so they can bring the talks to conclusion as soon as possible without sacrificing substance for speed, the groups argued. Besides the Singapore Business Federation, the other groups signing on to the statement were the Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce, the Canadian Agri-food Trade Alliance, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), the Foreign Trade Association of Peru, the National Center for APEC, the New Zealand International Business Forum, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. On the issue of exclusions, the statement reaffirmed six principles that Asia-Pacific business organizations had previously laid out for TPP, the first of which is that a deal must be comprehensive with no product exclusions and with commercially meaningful and flexible rules of origin. In an interview here, ECAT President Cal Cohen pointed to this sentence as the touchstone of the statement. In a joint statement issued by the U.S. and Japan last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed not to demand a priori exclusions from the negotiations. But that statement mentions Japans agricultural sensitivities as well as the U.S. sensitivities on manufactured goods, a likely reference to the automotive sector. In doing so, the statement holds open the possibility that these items would be protected or excluded from tariff cuts (Inside U.S. Trade, March 1). Asked whether business groups were worried by Japans indication it may seek exclusions in TPP, Cohen stressed that it is crucial for the current 11 TPP countries to set an example for Japan by not allowing exclusions from the deal. At the same time, he acknowledged that some current TPP partners are already publicly seeking exclusions, citing Australias demand that it be excluded from an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in TPP and the U.S. refusal to grant additional access on sugar to Australia. TPP countries are under pressure to support such exclusions, and one of the purposes of a statement such as the one that has been released is to send a very strong message to our governments and to our negotiators that theres a wide swath of the business community in many of these TPP countries [that wants] to refrain from the path of exclusions, he said. And I believe that type of message will have an impact for the better. In addition to demanding no product exclusions, the statement says a successful TPP deal must have commercially meaningful and flexible rules of origin. It should eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers on trade in goods and services, as well as investment no later than 2020. If applied, that would mean the longest phaseout period for tariffs and NTBs would be six years. According to the statement, a high-quality TPP deal would require strong standards across all main areas, such as transparency, investment and government procurement, intellectual property, e-commerce, as well as sanitary and phytosanitary measures. In addition, a deal must be enforceable, with strong state-to-state and investor-state dispute settlement for investment issues, according to the statement. A good deal must also be innovative, with concrete new commitments on new generation and behind-the-border issues, including regulatory coherence as well as the promotion and protection of innovation.

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As Japan Mulls TPP, Business Groups Call For Quick Conclusion Of...

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