By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
Intellectual property rights are among the three “most challenging” issues still to be resolved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations following the latest round that wrapped up yesterday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has said. Meanwhile, chief negotiators said this week that the confidential talks are on track for completion by year’s end. But as before, no substantive details were shared about the content of the negotiations.
Negotiations on other issues will now be put off until later stages, to “allow the TPP countries to concentrate their efforts on resolving the most challenging issues that remain, including related to intellectual property, competition, and environment,” USTR said in a 13 March statement.
The 16th round of the TPP negotiations was held from 4-13 March, in Singapore. The 17th round will be held in Lima, Peru, from 15-24 May.
There are 11 countries negotiating the TPP, which is a pinnacle of the Obama administration trade policy.
“[C]hief negotiators reported that they had achieved the goal set for the round: to put the negotiations on an accelerated track toward conclusion of a next-generation, comprehensive agreement in the 2013 time frame,” the statement said.
The statement said there has been undocumented “intersessional engagement,” and that solutions have been found to “many issues in a wide range of areas such as customs, telecommunications, investment, services, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property, regulatory coherence, development,” and others. It offered no further details on these proposed solutions.
As a result of progress, negotiating groups on customs, telecommunications, regulatory coherence, and development will not meet again to discuss the legal texts in future rounds, USTR said. “[A]ny remaining work in these areas will be taken up in late-stage rounds as the agreement is finalized,” it said, allowing a greater focus on IPRs, competition and environment.
USTR reported progress on the comprehensive packages on market access for goods, services and investment, and government procurement, with no details.
The 11 countries agreed to conduct additional intersessional work, but it is not clear when or how this will be conducted.
In mid-April, TPP trade ministers will meet on the margins of the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Trade Ministers meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia, USTR said. They will discuss progress to date and provide further guidance to negotiators. “As the negotiations draw to a close,” said USTR, “high-level officials will be more actively engaged with one another on ways to address the remaining sensitive issues.”
There were more than 300 stakeholders from TPP countries who registered for stakeholder events alongside the talks in Singapore, USTR said. Negotiators broke temporarily on 6 March to engage with stakeholders, present on the talks and take questions. Some 60 stakeholders arranged by Singapore made presentations on various issues.