2 Aug 2015

Latest TPP talks stall in Hawaii

2:14 pm on 2 August 2015

The latest talks to secure a Pacific Rim trade pact have stalled, as negotiators failed to bridge differences over key issues like market access for agricultural goods and patent protections for medicines.

TPP opponents in the United States have mounted campaigns including ads on the streets of Washington, DC.

TPP opponents in the United States have mounted campaigns including ads on the streets of Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman said the Trade Ministers from the 12 nations involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership have made significant progress, but more work needed to be done.

"Ministers and negotiators leave Hawaii committed to build on the momentum of this meeting ... to find common ground."

Mr Froman said he remained confident a deal was within reach, which would support jobs and growth.

No date has been set for the next meeting as yet, though New Zealand's Trade Minister, Tim Groser expects that will take place in the next few weeks.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman

US Trade Representative Michael Froman Photo: AFP

Hurdles remain high

The stalled agreement is a setback for United States President, Barack Obama, who hopes to seal a deal before the US is immersed in the 2016 presidential election.

Differences remain over key issues such as market access for dairy products, and monopoly periods for next-generation drugs.

Tim Groser

Trade Minister Tim Groser Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said market access for dairy products continued to be a key sticking point.

"Commercially meaningful access ... that has not quite been achieved at this meeting."

New Zealand faced considerable resistance from Japan and Canada, which have been loathe to open up their dairy markets to cheaper producers like New Zealand and the US.

But Mr Groser remains hopeful a solution can he found.

"But I am extremely confident that we will find that sweet spot and advance the interests of efficient dairy exporters ... and yet find a way of dealing with the political complexities for those of our friends around the table who are less competitive."

Other politically sensitive products like rice and sugar also remained unresolved.

Negotiations also remained stuck over how long patent protections should exist for next generation medicines.

American drugmakers want 12 years protection, which has been opposed by a number of countries. Australia is demanding only five years.

Time to quit

An opponent of TPP, Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey said it was time for the Government to cut its losses.

"Not opting to stay another day shows the gridlock is serious and potentially intractable."

Professor Kelsey said the underlying reason for the gridlock was the domestic opposition in almost all TPP countries.

"People simply don't believe a deal that raises the price of medicines and handcuffs the right of governments to regulate is in their national interests."

Professor Jane Kelsey at her home

Professor Jane Kelsey Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

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