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USTR Provides Update on TPP Negotiations Ahead of Atlanta Summit

Posted September 25, 2015

Ministers from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be meeting for two days in Atlanta next week on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1) in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues and finish the trade deal. Concurrently, the TPP chief negotiators will meet from Saturday to Tuesday, also in Atlanta.

Earlier this week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released an update on the current state of the TPP negotiations following the previous ministerial in Maui this summer. The July summit “resolved a number of issues and built consensus for a path forward on those issues which remain unsettled,” the USTR said.

Without directly addressing the remaining sticking points in contentious areas such as protective import quotas in the dairy and other agricultural sectors, monopoly periods for next-generation, biologic drugs, rules of origin and regional content requirements for automobiles, the release states that “Ministers and negotiators are now in contact to formalize the progress made at the recent Ministerial meeting and find common ground toward concluding negotiations.”

In addition to the update, the USTR has also published a detailed 46-page summary of the Obama administration’s goals and negotiating objectives for TPP.  “This is another in a series of steps this Administration has taken to share information at every step of the TPP negotiating process,” said chief transparency officer Tim Reif.

“Through detailed summaries, a robust congressional consultation process, outreach to a more diverse set of stakeholders, and public input on negotiating aims, we continue to build a more open and transparent negotiation process. We are always looking to do more, and appreciate the important steps taken on transparency in the Trade Promotion Authority law,” Reif said.

For a Canadian perspective on the talks at this late stage of the process, National Post writer Douglas Quan provides a general overview of the TPP’s more controversial aspects, which although they have yet to play any significant role in the current election, might still surface as issues.

Both the Liberals and NDP have questioned whether the Conservatives have the authority to negotiate on behalf of Canada during the election without consulting the other parties. However, according to the Privy Council’s “guidelines on the conduct of ministers, ministers of state, exempt staff and public servants during an election, during a election campaign” a government is restricted to performing matters that are routine, non-controversial, urgent and in the public interest, reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption, and agreed to by opposition parties (in cases where consultation is appropriate).