Over 600 delegates from the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries will attend Round 16 of the TPP negotiations from March 4-13 in Singapore.

A press release issued on March 1 by Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry added that about 300 stakeholders comprising business representatives, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the world have registered to attend the Stakeholders’ Forum on March 6, and participate in the various seminars and panel discussion sessions throughout the round.

All 11 TPP parties, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, are members of the Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Presently, the 11 TPP countries have a combined GDP of about 21 trillion USD, which is over 50 percent of the total GDP of APEC’s 21 members.

The TPP is envisioned to expand in stages towards wider economic integration amongst APEC economies and serve as a pathway towards a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

Singapore previously hosted Round 6 of the TPP negotiations in March 2011, where solid progress was made with substantive discussion in all areas, including goods, services, investment and government procurement.

Three negotiating rounds are scheduled this year prior to the October 2013 APEC summit in Indonesia.

The TPP is a comprehensive agreement aiming at advancing regional economic integration and reducing barriers to trade and investment. It will cover areas such as market access for goods, cross-border trade in services, investment, government procurement, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights, labour, and environment. In addition, it will address emerging trade issues such as non-tariff measures and cross-cutting issues such as the enhancement of regulatory coherence across TPP countries. The TPP will also facilitate the utilisation of the agreement by Small-and Medium-sized Enterprises.-VNA