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Trans-Pacific free trade talks progress

Publication Date : 21-06-2012


Moves to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have stepped up, with Canada and Mexico joining negotiations to finalise the mega Asian-Pacific free trade zone.

Canada will join Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam in the talks.

Canada's membership was confirmed yesterday, one day after Mexico's was confirmed.

This follows 12 rounds of negotiations since March 2010 to establish the TPP, a free trade agreement (FTA).

The TPP began with four members - Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand - coming together in 2006 to spur trade liberalisation. It could develop into the biggest free trade zone in the world, dwarfing the European Union.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a statement yesterday that it welcomes Canada as a valuable partner in the negotiations.

"Singapore has consistently expressed support for Canada's participation. Canada is one of the world's largest economies and a leading industrial nation. Singapore enjoys warm relations with Canada, and the TPP will bring both countries closer," it said.

In a joint statement on behalf of the nine members of the TPP, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said they are looking forward to working with Mexico as they seek to conclude a "comprehensive and balanced package".

Current TPP participants will now complete their domestic legal procedures, where applicable, after which Canada and Mexico will formally join and take part in the negotiations.

The MTI said in a statement on Tuesday that it welcomes Mexico's membership in the TPP as it is Singapore's second-largest trading partner in Latin America.

Mexico is also Latin America's second-largest economy.

Also in the statement, the MTI reiterated its strong support for Japan's proposed membership in the TPP.

"Their membership, in particular Japan as the world's third-largest economy, will add weight to the TPP and bring us closer towards the eventual goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific."

Last November, Mexico, Canada and Japan expressed interest in joining the TPP talks following a regional economic summit in Honolulu hosted by US President Barack Obama.

Mexico and Canada are already in an FTA with the US under the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement.

Japan's possible entry has been hampered by doubts whether Tokyo is really prepared to expose its automobile, agriculture and services markets to foreign competitors.

Japan is also affiliated with a China-centric East Asian FTA with China and South Korea.

Formal negotiations for a mega FTA, which would create a market of 1.5 billion people - more than a fifth of the global population - are expected to begin this year.

Among other objectives, the TPP negotiations aim to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services as well as to make it easier for the flow of investments and business people.

This includes reducing the amount of paperwork and simplifying Customs procedures.

The nine current TPP countries will hold their 13th round of talks next month in San Diego, California.


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