No one said it would be easy.
Trade ministers from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries stated they made substantial progress following four days of meetings in Singapore this month but will not meet their goal of concluding the talks by the end of this year. While there is no announced date they will likely meet in January.
Representing the U.S. Grains Council in Singapore was Floyd Gaibler, the Council's director of trade policy and biotechnology. Gaibler noted that key agricultural issues are among the most important remaining unresolved items.
"Market access for agricultural exports involves many particularly sensitive products," Gaibler said, "which is why the agricultural section is always among the most difficult sections to finalize in multi-lateral talks." Despite the difficulty, however, the Council and a number of other food and agricultural associations continue to press for the elimination of tariffs of all products with no sector or product exclusions.
"Tariff elimination with no exclusions is one of the core principles needed to ensure a high level and comprehensive trade agreement," Gaibler said.
Comprehensive tariff elimination must also be supported by robust sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) provisions to eliminate non-science based SPS measures that restrict trade.
"Another key unresolved issue is effective TPP enforcement of enhanced SPS provisions and a rapid response mechanism," Gaibler said.
The rapid response mechanism is important so that shipment-specific trade disputes can be quickly resolved. The Council is also seeking language to help address biotechnology regulatory concerns regarding asynchronous approvals and low level presence policies.
Demonstrating the importance of TPP, South Korea has formally announced their interest to participate in TPP and attended the Singapore meetings as an observer. The U.S. government has welcomed their interest and look forward to consulting with Korea at the appropriate time to lay the groundwork for Korea's possible entry into TPP.