Solid progress was made at the 16th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, held in Singapore from March 4-13.

So said Singapore ’s Chief Negotiator and Director-General of Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ng Bee Kim, at a press conference held on March 13 upon the conclusion of 10-day intensive negotiations.

“The negotiating teams made solid progress in bridging gaps in a number of areas. Good progress was made in working groups on Regulatory Coherence, Telecommunications, Customs and Development,” Bee Kim said.

Talks on services, e-commerce, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and government procurement also continued in earnest, she added.

The press were also told that relating to goods, services, investment and government procurement regulations, negotiators continued efforts to develop a comprehensive market access package that would maximise the TPP’s potential as a regional trade agreement to benefit all TPP countries.

According to Bee Kim, TPP countries recognise that such challenging areas as intellectual property, environment, competition and labour, will require further deliberation amongst TPP countries. However, she reconfirmed TPP leaders’ desire to conclude negotiations in 2013.

Asked about Japan ’s joining of the TPP, the host’s chief negotiator said that Japan has not yet decided to be a TPP member. Japan ’s TPP joining depends on her official proposal and consensus of all TPP countries.
The 11 TPP countries are Australia , Brunei , Canada , Chile , Malaysia , Mexico , New Zealand , Peru , Singapore , the United States and Vietnam . They are members of the Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and presently have a combined GDP of about USD 21 trillion, which is over 50 percent of the total GDP of APEC’s 21 members.

The 17th round of negotiations will take place in Lima , Peru , from May 15-24. TPP ministers are also expected to meet on the sidelines of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia, from April 20 -21.

Another negotiating round is scheduled to be held in September in the US prior to the October 2013 APEC summit in Indonesia.-VNA