Trans-Pacific trade treaty close to signoff says USA

Japan offers America a side of rice, but nasty copyright provisions remain

The US Trade Representative Michael Froman has tried to reassure the country's lawmakers that the interminable negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will conclude during 2015.

However, as chief negotiators meet in New York with the hope of securing signatures by the middle of March, there's speculation that what will emerge won't be “trans” anything. Rather, to get the treaty over the line to President Barack Obama's timetable, America might offer extensive sweeteners to Japan's powerful agricultural lobby.

The Washington Times says Froman expects the treaty to be concluded within a “small number of months”.

Within America, much of the opposition to the deal comes from Democrats and supporters like trade unions. Froman, however, still believes the administration should get the fast-track authority it needs to complete the deal as quickly as possible.

That would restrict Congress to a yes-or-no vote over the treaty, with no opportunity to put forward amendments.

According to Global Trade Review, Japanese negotiators have put forward a compromise in which their country will offer America preferential treatment for its rice exports to Japan, cutting out the other 10 nations involved in the TPP.

America, in turn, agreed to allow Japan to maintain its safety standards on car imports.

One analyst told GTR what's emerging looks like a bilateral treaty between America and Japan, and “less attractive side deals for everyone else.”

Apart from agriculture, the proposed treaty has copped criticism on a wide range of issues: criminalisation of copyright infringement, patent rules that seem to favour the US pharmaceutical industry, and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions that open governments to litigation for local legislation. ®

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