World / Asia-Pacific

Pacific trade ministers reach deal, doubt about approval remains

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-10-06 09:21

Pacific trade ministers reach deal, doubt about approval remains

Trade ministers of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries attend a press conference after negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Atlanta, the United States, on Oct. 5, 2015. Trade ministers of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries "have successfully concluded" the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Monday. [Photo/Xinhua]

ATLANTA, the United States - Trade ministers of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, but the final ratification of the ambitious deal in the TPP members is far from certain, particularly in the United States.

"After more than five years of intensive negotiations, we have come to an agreement that will support jobs, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development, and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region," said US Trade Representative Michael Froman said at a closing press conference after about five days of round-the-clock TPP ministerial meeting was concluded here.

Froman said negotiators will continue to work on technical issues for preparing a complete text for public release, including the legal review, translation, and drafting and verification of the text, to formalize the outcomes of the agreement.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would affect 40 percent of the world economy. Trade officials had originally planned to wrap up the talks in Atlanta, capital of the US state of Georgia, Thursday, but a final deal was delayed by bitter fight over agricultural market access, rules of origin for autos and intellectual property protection for a new generation of drugs known as biologics.

As Canada, the third-largest economy in the TPP framework after the US and Japan, has shifted into federal election campaign mode, trade ministers were under pressure to get an agreement before the Canadian federal election on Oct. 19.

While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a strong supporter of the TPP, his prospect in the federal election remains unclear.

Tom Mulcair, the leader of Canada's New Democrat Party, which until recently was leading the polls, warned Friday that the new government he may form will not be bound by any TPP deal signed by Harper if he wins the federal election.

While negotiators have touted the expanding opportunities for trade and investment in goods and services among the 12 countries, trade unions, environmental groups, consumer and heath care organizations across the US have come together to organize protests against the TPP in front of the Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta, the site of the TPP negotiations, out of various concerns.

"We are very concerned because the TPP has been negotiated behind the doors ... We're concerned about the impact on good jobs in the United States and in other TPP countries ... We're concerned about whether corporations could sue our governments outside our court system," Melinda St. Louis, director of International Campaigns with Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization in Washington D.C., the US capital, told Xinhua.

"Since the beginning of the negotiations, we have made very concrete proposals that have different models of the trade agreement, and those concerns have been largely ignored," St. Louis said. "We think it would be a mistake to conclude the deal now from what we know."

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