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Talks on TPP forge ahead; gains made at Sydney round

Chief negotiators from 11 signatory countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership made progress in narrowing down a list of items for the free trade pact to be dropped or revised at a three-day meeting in Sydney through Wednesday.

The negotiators agreed to hold the next meeting in late September in Japan, keeping alive the possibility of reaching a new agreement for the TPP without the United States, which withdrew from the pact in January, within this year.

“We made significant progress in discussion on items to be dropped,” Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Japan’s chief TPP negotiator, told reporters after the meeting.

But he admitted that “further work must be done” for their goal of reaching a broad agreement on revisions to the TPP on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November.

At the three-day meeting, the 11 countries presented items they hope will be dropped or revised for the first time.

According to conference sources, such demands cover a wide range of topics, including rules for intellectual property protection and market liberalization for government procurements.

Work to narrow down the items has made some progress, but additional demands may be raised, observers said.

Negotiations may take time if the TPP countries clash on remaining items or if revisions are allowed to the tariff rates and import quotas agreed by the original 12 TPP members.

There was no opposition to their plan to drop a provision for a protection period of eight years for development data on cutting-edge biopharmaceuticals. The United States strongly demanded adding the provision in the negotiation process of the original TPP.

The 11 countries plan to drop only the items agreed by all of them, the sources said.

They also plan to encourage the United States to return to the pact by setting up a system to revive original TPP terms in the event of a U.S. comeback, according to the sources.

Source: The Japan News

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