US says trans-Pacific trade deal on track
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said talks were on track to reach the outline of a trans-Pacific trade deal next month, and vowed to move quickly afterwards to complete the agreement.
Nine Asia-Pacific nations have set the goal of reaching the framework on the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership in time for a November 12-13 summit in Hawaii of leaders from the APEC forum including US President Barack Obama.
"I am confident that we remain on track towards our goal that our leaders have given us, and that's to have the broad outlines of this agreement in place by the time our leaders convene," Kirk said at the US Chamber of Commerce.
Negotiators from the nine countries - Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam - are meeting this week in Lima, Peru, in advance of the Hawaii summit.
Advocates hope that the deal will serve as the basis for a broader trade agreement across the dynamic Pacific region, amid a standstill in the Doha round of talks that aim for global trade liberalisation.
"We are equally committed that we don't want TPP to even get close to a Doha-like process," Kirk said.
"We don't want this dragging on ad infinitum because this can be a real generator for growth," he said.
The Obama administration has vowed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be a 21st-century form of trade deal that takes account of barriers other than tariffs and ensures stringent labour and environmental standards.
But critics have voiced alarm at a lack of detail about the emerging deal. Activists charge that pharmaceutical companies could push up costs of medicine, while the US dairy industry fears being swamped by imports from New Zealand.
Several other countries have considered entering the trade pact including Japan, where the government is facing strong opposition from farmers.
Kirk said the United States would welcome more countries into the pact but stressed: "We aren't going to slow down the current process to wait on them to make that decision."