Mainichi Daily News, Japan
Chile sees no problem with Japan joining TPP later
24 June 2011
HO CHI MINH (Kyodo) — Chile’s chief trade negotiator said Thursday he sees little downside for Japan delaying a decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact because the negotiations are expected to be a very long and complex.
"As early you can go into the process the better because you can participate in the development of the process, but this is a very long and complex process...a long and medium term negotiation, so it doesn’t matter if you lose a couple of rounds to take a decision," Rodrigo Contreras, director of Bilateral Economic Affairs at Chile’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview with Kyodo News.
Contreras, in Vietnam for the seventh round of the negotiations for the TPP, said Japan can still "have the possibility to participate in the most important decisions" even if it decides to join later.
Japan, which had planned to decide this month on participation in pact negotiations, put off the decision after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Chile is one of four original members in the TPP that began as the Pacific-4 with Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand.
Another five countries, including the United States, joined negotiations later for an expanded agreement.
The U.S. decision raised the TPP’s attractiveness for other countries because of its potential to offer better access to the U.S. market.
Giving an update on the negotiations, Contreras said that only "the framework of the agreement" is likely be concluded by November.
The nine countries now working on the TPP had aimed to conclude negotiations before the summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu in November, but his comment indicated only a skeleton of an agreement, without details, will be ready for the APEC summit.
The framework in November will contain the "number of chapters" and "the main positions that are on the table," Contreras said.
More time will be needed especially for difficult working groups such as labor and environment.
"The discussion of an agreement is very hard and long usually...there are nine participating countries so you have to be patient as it’s not something for the short term," he said.
Contreras added the partners are not considering exceptions for "sensitive" products, noting "all countries participating here have sensitivities in some products and they will try to find a solution" for each one.
As for developing countries such as Vietnam, he said they have discussed how to deal with different developments of countries.
"There are plenty of initiatives, mainly in the field of cooperation, and that’s all we have on the table today," he said.
The nine TPP countries — the United States, Chile, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — are in accord over the immediate lifting of tariffs for 90 percent of goods, but they remain divided over the remaining 10 percent of items such as sugar and dairy products, sources involved in the negotiations said.
This week’s meetings involve a meeting of chief negotiators that began Monday and will end Friday.
Other officials have been meeting in Ho Chi Minh City since last week under the various working committees dealing with issues such as environment, labor, investment, capacity building, financial services and rules of origin.
The meeting in Vietnam will be followed by others in the United States in September and Peru in October.