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This Week In Trade

TPP, TTIP Lagging Under U.S. Shutdown; WTO Chief Tries To Spur Talks

Posted: October 07, 2013

Posted: October 7, 2013

Negotiations for two of the Obama administration's big trade initiatives are lagging as a result of the U.S. government shutdown, which is entering its second week. Leaders of nations participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are meeting in Indonesia without President Obama, and the second round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is not taking place this week as originally scheduled.

President Obama's absence at the Oct. 8 TPP leaders' meeting, while arguably damaging to the U.S. image, will likely not make a huge difference in terms of whether TPP countries are able to conclude negotiations this year. Participating countries already face an uphill battle due to insufficient progress in the most difficult areas of intellectual protection, environment, state-owned enterprises and market access.

Similarly, the cancellation of this week's scheduled second round of TTIP negotiations is unlikely to have much of a negative effect on the substance of the negotiations, but will make it more unlikely that a deal can be done expediently. Both sides are still wrestling with establishing their scope and fundamental objectives for the negotiations, so not being able to work toward an agreement on these issues could further delay the talks.

Also in the forefront this week are the ongoing efforts by World Trade Organization members to cobble together a package of trade concessions on trade facilitation, agriculture and development to be announced at the December ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo met last week in Indonesia with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade ministers, where he urged them to engage directly in the negotiations in order to reach a deal by Bali and warned them that failure would have serious negative consequences for the multilateral trading system.

He will continue to deliver that message as he travels to India today (Oct. 7) and to Washington later in the week to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Azevedo will also make clear that he does not intend for the December ministerial meeting to be a negotiating session, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said at an Oct. 4 press briefing in Indonesia. Rockwell noted that the WTO General Council needs to transmit the final documentation to the ministerial conference by November.

He said a “very intensive period of three weeks of negotiation” will begin in Geneva on Oct. 14, after which WTO members will know whether or not they will have a deal in Bali.

Azevedo is slated to update the General Council on the status of the negotiations on Wednesday (Oct. 9) before traveling to Washington, where he is slated to speak on Friday (Oct. 11) at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.