The eighth round of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Chicago this month is expected to see an intensification in negotiations around smaller issues on the table, while more contentious political issues, such as agriculture and intellectual property are expected to get the heavy attention they deserve toward the end of negotiations.
A deal is not expected to be reached at a November 12-13 summit of APEC leaders, or before the November 26 election.
The intensification of talks between the nine participating countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Peru, Singapore, the US and New Zealand – comes as negotiators look to release a broad outline for the agreement when political leaders meet at APEC in Honolulu in November.
But the ugly issues – particularly around agricultural access and intellectual property laws – will likely not have had much attention paid to them by the time of APEC.
As with previous trade negotiations, the small fish are being dealt to first in order to give negotiators a clear run at the contentious stuff, which is less likely to have as broad a consensus from the participating nations.
It will be a fairly intense period for negotiators between now and the APEC meeting, with another round of formal negotiations set to take place in Lima, Peru, in late October.
So far, negotiations have been smooth, with no ‘Doha-style’ stunts from participants, as they work toward a regional trade agreement – a far sight from the argumentative and stalled negotiations being conducted through the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round of trade talks.
Meanwhile, concerns of New Zealand opening itself up to the possibility of foreign private firms being able to sue the government for lost earnings due to legislative changes could be over-rated.
New Zealand negotiators had not been given a mandate allowing them to depart from their stance in previous agreements stating the government was able enact legislation without the worry of litigation.
Concerns about this were brought to a head when tobacco giant Phillip Morris indicated earlier this year it was looking to sue the Australian government over a law change that cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging – a law change the New Zealand government is looking to follow through on as well.
That case was possible due a free trade agreement between Australia and Hong-Kong.