SINGAPORE – The United States and its TPP partners – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam – made considerable progress in the sixth round of negotiations held this week in Singapore, giving a strong boost to their efforts to develop a high-standard, 21st-century trade agreement that will support the creation and retention of jobs and promote economic growth. To ensure they had the time they needed to maximize progress, the TPP countries extended the length of the round in Singapore and some U.S. negotiators also traveled to Malaysia and Vietnam before and after the formal round to advance the market access negotiations.
During this round, the United States and TPP countries made substantial headway toward a key goal of developing the legal texts of the agreement, which include commitments covering all aspects of their trade and investment relationship. Recognizing the priority of this negotiation as well as the challenge of negotiating a regional agreement with nine countries, each country began showing the type of flexibility that will be needed to successfully conclude the negotiation. As a result, the teams were able to narrow the gaps in their positions on a wide range of issues across the more than 25 chapters of the agreement.
The United States and other countries put forward new legal text in a range of areas, including industrial goods, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, technical barriers to trade, and environment. In addition, the United States tabled legal text on regulatory coherence, a new issue to feature for the first time in a trade agreement that is aimed at making the regulatory systems of the TPP countries operate more seamlessly and addressing so-called “behind the border” issues that are increasingly the key barriers U.S. business face in trying to access foreign markets. The teams had the opportunity for an initial review of these texts and we expect to be able to make further progress once the TPP countries have had the chance to consult in more detail with their respective governments on these proposals. The TPP countries also had good exchanges on initial U.S. proposals on the other cross-cutting issues of competitiveness and facilitating business, how to promote the participation of small- and medium-sized businesses in international trade, deepening the production and supply chain linkages between the TPP countries, and promoting development.
Prior to the start of the round, the TPP teams exchanged initial offers on services and investment, government procurement, and product-specific rules of origin, as well as requests on for improvements in the initial offers on goods. The discussions of these offers during this round were constructive and a good first step toward producing an ambitious market access package and a TPP rule of origin, which will support regional integration.
On the day before the formal launch of the round, the TPP countries held a seminar with more than 50 stakeholders from business, civil society, and academic groups. U.S. representatives from organizations representing a wide range of interests made presentations. A labor seminar was held on March 27 with representatives from trade unions, business and government.
The TPP countries committed to working intersessionally to further build on the momentum achieved during this round and so as to ensure further meaningful progress in the next round. The United States is working to prepare additional legal text for the seventh round, and will continue consulting closely with Congress and stakeholders throughout the process.
The seventh round will be held during the week of June 20 in Vietnam, and, as in Singapore, this round will be extended to give negotiators the opportunity to further advance their work. The TPP countries are seeking to make as much progress as possible ahead of the APEC Leaders’ meeting in November in Honolulu.