11 nations scrambling to save TPP

Trade ministers and negotiators of the remaining partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP-11, are still scrambling to dismantle "stumbling blocks" which threaten efforts to revive the trade deal.

More meetings were scheduled yesterday evening before TPP-11 leaders meet here today on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here.

"The stakes are high, some countries are still reluctant to allow partners to bridge the gaps.

"The leaders will announce something tomorrow, but if it is positive or not, we do not know. We are still discussing, we shall see later tonight," said an official.

Another official cautioned that if the meeting in Danang failed to produce results, TPP-11 would not survive.

"If we miss this, TPP-11 will die. TPP was already dying, some people try to resuscitate, we see how things go tonight," he added.

Chief negotiators met for two days from Monday and failed to produce the desired results and when discussions were brought to the ministers level, there was still no agreement reached.

When the United States withdrew from TPP in January, officials and ministers from the remaining 11 countries met to salvage the deal and one option was to suspend some of the provisions agreed upon when the United States was part of TPP.

The remaining TPP-11 countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Malaysia was one of the countries that submitted its "shopping list" for suspension in some provisions involving intellectual property rights (IPR) and government procurement.

It is understood most of the IPR issues have been settled among TPP-11 partners involving key ones like pharmaceuticals, copyright and protection for biologics.

Another issue hogging the headlines is the failure of Apec trade ministers to issue a statement on the outcome of their meeting following the United States' refusal to accept the language, such as multilateral trading systems and free trade.

The ministers who met on Wed­nes­day sat down again yesterday and still could not agree on the wording.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said it was unprecedented in Apec history when the ministers could not agree on a statement by economies which believed in globalisation and multilateral trading systems.

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