Trans Pacific Pact is Almost Ready, Says US Trade Official Even As Protests Rock New York

By @diplomatist10 on
U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Ford Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan January 7, 2015. Today's visit is meant to highlight the auto sector recovery. The event is part of Obama's tour this week to draw attention away from resurgent Republicans and preview his State of the Union Address in two weeks. Reuters/Stringer

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact involving 12 countries is almost ready. According to a top U.S. trade official, the ambitious TPP will be wrapped up in a few months. The official also urged Congress to back the Obama administration's trade agenda.

Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative said the administration is looking forward to lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation for a streamlined approval process on trade deals. Some believe that the TPP will be wrapped up by mid-March, reported Reuters.

"We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon," Froman told the Senate Committee on Finance. He said outstanding issues were "significant and consensus is still eluding on how long to protect the exclusivity of biologic drugs, manage environmental protection rules, handle investment and matters on state-owned enterprises." 

The countries who have expressed interest in signing the pact include the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan.

Currency Issue

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House committees on trade have stated  that trade negotiations should stop trading partners from manipulating their currencies. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would not support the TPP without tangible action on currencies.

The White House is keen to clinch the trade agreement, covering 40 percent of the world economy, early in 2015.  Some Democrats have concerns on TPP's impact on jobs at home and conservative Republicans are also opposed to it, as they do not relish adding more power to President Barack Obama.

Orrin Hatch, Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, has alreday cautioned against the "grave mistake" to close TPP before securing Trade Promotion Authority to submit the trade deal to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, sans any amendments, for setting the negotiating goals.

Huge Protests

Meanwhile, negotiators working on the TPP held parleys in New York City on Monday at an undisclosed location. But braving all secrecy, hundreds of protesters from drawn trade, labour, environmental, health, anti-GMO, food justice, anti-fracking, animal activists protested in the blizzard, against the trade agreement for its reported "fast tracking" by Trade Promotion Authority, according to Oped News.

Public interest groups, which protested outside the Sheraton Hotel also included AIDS activists, who raised slogans objecting to the monopolies that TPP would grant to large pharmaceutical corporations, to jack up the prices of AIDS drugs and make them unaffordable and out of reach for many.

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