Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations

Sixth round of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Negotiations

Australia and its TPP partners (Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam) continued to make progress toward a high-quality, 21st century agreement at the sixth round of TPP negotiations held in Singapore from 24 March to 1 April 2011. Negotiators at this round focussed on narrowing the gaps in positions on the draft text and discussing initial market access offers.

Draft text is now on the table in each of the negotiating groups and discussions were productive in further clarifying, and reconciling differences in positions.  We anticipate there will continue to be new text proposals tabled before or at the next round.

In respect of goods market access, negotiators had exchanged lists of requests for improvements on initial offers before the Singapore round, and revised tariff offers will be exchanged prior to the next round in Vietnam. Australia’s focus is on creating a regional agreement with common tariff commitments and easy-to-use rules of origin. Discussions on product-specific rules of origin were productive — these are key elements in achieving a regional FTA that supports modern business supply chain integration.

Initial market access offers were exchanged prior to the Singapore round on services, investment and government procurement. Consistent with the high level of ambition for the TPP agreement, the services and investments offers were made on a negative list basis — an exercise that had not previously been undertaken by some TPP countries. Australia put a high quality offer on the table, reflecting our current open trade and investment regime. Our offer preserves the Government’s ability to regulate legitimately on social, environmental and other important public policy matters. In the next round in June, Australia will seek to reduce the restrictions placed by TPP countries on foreign service suppliers and investors, and encourage greater transparency for businesses operating in these areas. Negotiators agreed to exchange further questions intersessionally so as to enable maximum progress to be made at the next round of negotiations.

Discussions also progressed in Singapore on the 21st century cross-cutting issues, such as promoting the participation of small and medium sized businesses in international trade, improving regulatory coherence, and promoting seamless production and supply chains in the region. There was also discussions of proposals to ensure that the TPP agreement is a “living agreement” that facilitates the entry of new members and is capable of evolving with the changing business environment. Negotiators in this working group discussed how such concepts could be implemented in the text of the TPP agreement, and some textual proposals were considered.

On 27 March 2011 a Stakeholders’ Forum was held in Singapore in the margins of the negotiating round. More than 50 representatives from business groups, academics and NGOs from TPP countries were in attendance. Australian TPP negotiators attended the stakeholder presentations and engaged with stakeholders on a range of issues. Chief Negotiators also provided interested stakeholders with an update on the progress of TPP negotiations at a briefing session held on 29 March 2011. In addition, a labour seminar was held on 30 March 2011 which focused on key issues facing workers and businesses and how relevant issues may be addressed in the TPP agreement.

The next round of TPP negotiations is scheduled for 20–24 June 2011 in Vietnam. TPP negotiators continue to aim to make maximum progress on the agreement by the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu in November 2011. We will provide further information on and any stakeholder program on the DFAT website when they are available.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to seek input from stakeholders on the TPP negotiations, and to this end, will be conducting the next set of public consultations in Australia in May 2011. Once final arrangements have been made, dates and locations of the consultations will be published on our website and in newspapers, as well as sent to stakeholders. Upon request, Australian negotiators would be happy to organise industry or sector-specific briefings as a part of these consultations to enable a more detailed discussion with relevant stakeholders in particular areas of the negotiations. We welcome written submissions at any time. To make submissions or to request appointments, please email us at tpp@dfat.gov.au.