TPP negotiations update: It isn't over until it's over

  • National Newswatch

Trade expert Peter Clark is in Lahaina, Hawaii, where he is reporting on talks at the Trans Pacific Partnership Ministerial meeting.

LAHAINA, Hawaii - As expected several important issues are defying resolution on the USTR timeframe.Pharma patents and Dairy are key and stakeholders are being canvassed privately to determine if they can stay until Sunday.The Ministers are still scheduled to meet the press at 7:30 EDT but chances of them having a full package to present in jubilation are very minimal.Canada has reportedly made an offer on dairy on the Japanese model – open to all TPP members and based on milk equivalent tonnages. A tonne of cheese would be measured in terms of the volume of milk required to produce the cheese.The same would apply to milk powder.Japan has also offered TPP wide access with no country guarantees. Fair and equitable access. But NZ and perhaps the USA want more.It is like being in a Ground Hog Day bombarded with South Park reruns - Blame Canada. We may be an easy target, but Canada is engaged.New Zealand is also unhappy about offers from Japan, Mexico and the USA. Is it Canada or some other factors like global milk gluts low prices and over capacity which are creating this impasse?The ultra anal secrecy at times forces us to rely on leaks to Inside US Trade or uninformed speculation. The details being circulated -- which Canada has not confirmed or denied -- would reflect a proper plurilateral approach.Negotiating access on a hub and spoke basis particularly with countries who maintain irrational expectations as New Zealand does is like being nibbled to death by ducks.The term of patent protection for Biologic medicines is still a problem. Chances of it being fixed in the next four hours are slim to none.  It is very unlikely this could be done in the limited time available.We expect a stocktaking and extension until Sunday. Why Sunday? Because Hurricane Guillermo is fast on its way to becoming a Category 3 storm and, after Monday, flights in and out of the islands will be scarcer than hen's teeth.Peter Clark, president of Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates, is one of Canada's leading international trade strategists. His clients in Canada and around the world include governments, corporations and trade associations. He is a frequent media commentator and columnist.  Follow him on Twitter at @jpclark14