Atlanta TPP talks head into the night
By Pattrick Smellie
Oct. 5 (BusinessDesk) - Intensive negotiations are going on into the late evening in Atlanta, Georgia, as trade ministers from the 12 nations seek to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment pact, seven years after talks first began.
A press conference, originally scheduled for 9am NZT was rescheduled twice, despite running two hour countdown clocks, before the Office of the US Trade Representative placed a notice on its livestream site that the media call was "delayed pending further notice" and encouraging visitors to "check back regularly".
New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser's office said the minister was still negotiating and that circumstances remained fluid.
Such reports as are emerging suggest trade negotiators could be preparing for an "all-nighter", a common feature of multi-country negotiations, where a combination of desire for a result and exhaustion push a final deal over the line. The meeting is now running into its fifth day, having originally been scheduled for two.
Auckland University academic and campaigner against TPP, Jane Kelsey, who is monitoring progress and redistributing coverage, sent comments attributed to a "Mexican minister", saying around 8pm Atlanta time (1pm NZT) that he believed a deal could be reached within the next 12 hours.
"The ministers that decided to stay will be here until we're finished, either tonight, midnight, or early morning,” he said. “So whatever it takes, we'll be here for the deal.”
A Canadian Press report, filed within the last hour, quotes Australia's trade minister Andrew Robb as saying a major dispute between Australia and the US over the treatment of so-called biologic drug patents had pushed other outstanding issues, including the dairy market access issue that is critical for New Zealand, on to the backburner and they were only now being addressed.
Robb said the two had hammered out a late-night deal that sat between the US preference for an eight-year patent and Australia's for five years' patent protection for the new generation drugs used to treat terminal diseases, including cancers. That compromise had sparked a range of new skirmishes with two or three other countries, displeased with the outcome.