Ministers meeting in S'pore for Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

SINGAPORE - Fresh from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in Bali earlier this week, a dozen trade ministers are convening in Singapore for more trade talks.

A ministerial meeting for the ambitious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement began on Saturday and runs till Tuesday.

The aim is to conclude the nearly four-year negotiations by the year end, which could well happen during the talks here.

The TPP nations are: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The TPP aims to expand the flow of goods, services and capital among the members.

The nations are a huge market for Singapore with 790 million people, total economic output of about US$28 trillion (S$35 trillion) last year and accounting for almost $300 billion or more than 30 per cent of Singapore's goods trade last year.

The 19 rounds of negotiations to date began in March 2010.

They have not been without controversy.

A draft of the intellectual property chapter was released by WikiLeaks last month, revealing the conflicting interests of the negotiating countries.

The agreement is expected to benefit Singapore by going beyond tariff elimination and other traditional trade barriers to tackle issues such as encouraging regulatory best practices and standardising trade facilitation rules.

As a possible route to the long-envisioned Free Trade Area for the Asia Pacific, the TPP is also expected to boost regional economic integration.

After a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew here last month, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Singapore and the US are committed to having a "high standard" regional trade pact.

Both want an agreement that will "ultimately boost trade, investment and job creation in all our countries", he said.

chiaym@sph.com.sg


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