Monthly Archives: July 2015

TPP: Maui Madness


The situation in Maui is ominous.

There is a hurricane bearing down on in Hawaii – gaining strength from the warm Pacific waters. There was a full moon last night. I am looking at a beautiful black swan in the pond at the Westin – ten feet away.

Are these omens?

Ministers have been in and out of plenary sessions for days. They are trying to do the deal. No doubt there is a lot of jawboning to bring the recalcitrant into line.

An underlying problem appears to be Washington’s lack of contribution to seeking middle ground. Give-and-take unfortunately requires all sides to give. There are rumours that the US will need to come to Australia’s position on Biologics data protection. Will that be enough?

There are still problems with automobiles. Very sticky.

And that might be the easy stuff?

USTR is denying media reports on Canada’s alleged dairy offer. The Kiwis will be taking a lot of flak on this as they were behind the leak. Indeed, New Zealand, which one of the more aggressive negotiators in this proposed trade agreement, is walking a fine line.

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TPP negotiations update: It isn’t over until it’s over

Trade expert Peter Clark is in Lahaina, Hawaii, where he is reporting on talks at the Trans Pacific Partnership Ministerial meeting.

LAHAINA, Hawaii – As expected several important issues are defying resolution on the USTR timeframe.

Pharma patents and Dairy are key and stakeholders are being canvassed privately to determine if they can stay until Sunday.

The Ministers are still scheduled to meet the press at 7:30 EDT but chances of them having a full package to present in jubilation are very minimal.

Canada has reportedly made an offer on dairy on the Japanese model – open to all TPP members and based on milk equivalent tonnages. A tonne of cheese would be measured in terms of the volume of milk required to produce the cheese.

The same would apply to milk powder.

Japan has also offered TPP wide access with no country guarantees. Fair and equitable access. But NZ and perhaps the USA want more.

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Moving Day at the Maui TPP Ministerial

Trade expert Peter Clark is in Lahaina, Hawaii, where he will be reporting on talks at the Trans Pacific Partnership Ministerial meeting.

LAHAINA, Hawaii – Day two of the TPP Ministerial went late into the night. Indeed we are into round the clock negotiations in the race for the concluding  media conference scheduled for 1:30 PM  HST (7:30 PM EDT) Friday.

Former Canada-US Free Trade Agreement Deputy Chief Negotiator Gordon Ritchie used to compare coordinating provinces on trade negotiations to herding cats. The TPP has set a new standard – it has been like containing bullfrogs in a wheel-barrow.

There is broader engagement and the wheels of consensus are rolling. No one missed the half-way cut. Ministers are on track to an agreement. The key questions are how broad will it be and how deep?

Agricultural issues are being addressed and other sticky issues have been moved to the plus side of the ledger. There is no leaderboard or scoresheet for the Ministers.  Scrums, leaks and posturing by participants provide our information base.

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Trans Pacific Partnership talks might go into overtime as negotiators pursue deal

Trade expert Peter Clark is in Lahaina, Hawaii, where he will be reporting on talks at the Trans Pacific Partnership Ministerial meeting.

Lahaina, Hawaii – The eagles have landed on Ka’anapali Beach. Canada’s Trade Minister Ed Fast arrived Monday evening to join United States Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and 8 other TPP decision makers. Peru’s Minister of Trade and Tourism Magali Silva came in a day later. And Brunei will not be represented.

The Day One plenary session was closed to the public. It would have been a series of set pieces, pep talks and cheerleading.

The ball game is approaching an end – the starters have been pulled and Ministers have been called up from the bullpen – without a lot of time to warm up.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: what’s in it for us?

LAHAINA, Hawaii — This column is not about supply management. It’s not about agriculture. The media has been shining a bright light on trade in agricultural products lately, because this is where the most serious barriers exist among the nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Food security is an issue – a reluctance to rely on foreign supplies of food. Subsidies are the 800-pound gorilla in the TPP. Deep pockets should not determine success. Larry Herman points out in the Financial Post that the U.S. is a superstar in the farm support league.

Domestic farm support is not addressed in the TPP. Nor are agricultural export subsidies – which are by their nature intrinsically evil. Export subsidies should have been eliminated under the Doha Round by 2013. They are still alive and well in the largest agricultural exporting countries.

The TPP is about much more than farm trade. Indeed, it is about much more than traditional trade issues. The TPP gets into non-trade turf issues which have complicated and delayed progress. These are the main hurdles in Maui this week.

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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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The Trans-Pacific Partnership talks enter the ‘threats’ stage

Ministers responsible for the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations meet in Maui July 28-31 to continue the talks. The consensus has been and continues to be that a wrap-up of TPP — a massive international trade pact that would eclipse NAFTA itself — is not in the cards for Maui. But the U.S. and Japan seem determined to close the deal — leaving other nations behind, if necessary.

So many targets have been missed. Why is Maui different? Time is running out for President Obama to make TPP part of his legacy. And the popularity of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s government appears to be in freefall — so he’s keen to get the TPP signed well ahead of Japan’s 2016 federal election.

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman wants the TPP to be approved by Congress on Obama’s watch. Realistically, this means it has to happen before Christmas. TPP and the 2016 U.S. elections will not mix. Froman can’t afford further delays — it may already be too late – so hardball is his only option.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership – Show us the money

I support trade liberalization – but I don’t believe in trickle down benefits. But support requires more than blind faith. Trade deals must be sold to increasingly skeptical voters by demonstrating that there will be benefits and real gains for participants.

The overly secretive TPP comes up short. For all its hype, it is far from clear what Canada will gain – the costs in meeting U.S. demands are much more clear. Can autoworkers be assured that the great sucking sound from Mexico will not become louder as Canada loses more jobs and investment? But that will happen without TPP. And here lies the problem in selling trade liberalization.

There are, of course, winners and there will be losers – at any given point in time. But gains can be reversed and reversed rapidly by changes in technology, currency movements, consumer taste shifts and the impacts of cyber business.

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