Some speculated that a gathering of high-level officials could indicate that the deal is nearing completion after August talks in Hawaii stalled over a variety of issues.
Although two-day talks between negotiators from the four nations on auto trade did not reach a final agreement, ministers were readying for meetings in Atlanta next week for a final push to get the deal over the finish line. “They have the opportunity to close the deal”, Obama said in Washington on 16 September.
One of the bitterest fights is over trade in dairy products, the number one export of New Zealand, which is a founding member of the talks.
However, some of the major difficulties that have emerged come from far more familiar trade areas, such as agricultural market access and rules of origin.
Reached Wednesday night by Global Atlanta, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said there was “nothing to confirm or announce at this time” about a potential Atlanta meeting.
“You might say “well how can NZ hold out”?” he said.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 40,000 in the auto sector. “This is a lot of jobs, and we need our government to recognise the value of those jobs and take a firm line”, Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO, the biggest U.S. labour alliance, said. The percentage for other vehicles such as tractors and trucks, as well as their engines, transmissions, and other auto parts is at 60 percent. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper strongly backed the deal last week in a debate, his prospects in the country’s October elections are unclear. A successful conclusion to the talks, of course, could be a political boon for the Tories.
Besides eliminating tariffs on textile and apparel exports to TPP countries, the report mentions that securing a “yarn forward” rule of origin also as a negotiating objective.
Some officials have suggested, however, that the lack of an official timetable is not an insurmountable problem for the trade talks.
“Basically, the situation is that I and my negotiators can see a very good deal for New Zealand in everything except dairy, and I don’t know to characterize the deal there because it’s not a deal we could accept”, Mr. Groser said, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Even with the talks in an uncertain phase, officials have been publicly making the case for the merits of such a deal, ahead of the hard ratification process that will ensue if and when an agreement is signed.
He appeared resigned, saying what is taking shape may be the best that can be achieved.
“It’s not the only game in town”. (The U.S.is interested in the TPP mostly for geopolitical reasons, to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific Rim economy, and perhaps that explains President Obama’s willingness to make such a concession to keep Japan on side.) Canada and Mexico were not even consulted.