Trade Gurus & Public Affairs Mavens

The TPP talks: Things happen slowly — when they happen at all

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Day Four of the TPP chief negotiators’ sessions … no news of breakthroughs yet. No news of failures, either. No news period — full stop. All of this, hopefully, will change when United States Trade Representative Michael Froman and the other assorted trade ministers arrive. There are no new impasses; the negotiators are too busy with the old ones.

There have been no protests here, either — not yet. Maui is very relaxed and laid-back … right down to the bumper stickers proclaiming, “We’re Hawaiians, not Americans”.

The hotels near the Westin are full. Missing this round is not an option. New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser and Australian Minister Andrew Robb are here already. They appear to be enjoying the beach, the sunshine and relaxed atmosphere; at the moment there’s nobody else here to talk to.

Stakeholders from various countries are meeting with each other, and with negotiating teams which seem more determined to collect information than to share it. This is no substitute for frank and open consultation with stakeholders. It’s a bit late in the day to be avoiding real and meaningful dialogue.

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