Kyodo News International
The 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations are arranging a working group meeting on tariffs from Sept. 20 to 23 in Washington, negotiation sources said Wednesday.
The meeting of the market access working group that deals with tariff cuts and eliminations will likely coincide with the meeting of TPP chief negotiators, set to be held in Washington on Sept. 18-21, as the countries seek to facilitate the talks and conclude a deal by the year-end.
In addition, ministers of the TPP countries are expected to hold their own meetings on Oct. 3, 4 and 6, followed by a summit on Oct. 8, on the fringes of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Bali, Indonesia, a government official said.
As the TPP countries agreed in late July to put 95 percent of their respective tariff lines on the negotiation table by Sept. 20, the upcoming working group meeting is likely to start with the presentation of proposed tariff-free items.
Japan exchanged a list of items with Brunei, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Singapore during the 19th round of TPP negotiations that ended in Brunei last week, but the percentage of tariff-free items remained relatively low at around 80 percent.
The five TPP countries that Japan has not exchanged the list with are Australia, Canada, Chile, Vietnam and the United States. Japan plans on holding bilateral tariff negotiations separate from the working group meeting as well.
The working group on intellectual property, covering patent terms of medicine, is also set to hold its meeting in Mexico in late September, while some other working groups may also hold their meetings around the time, one negotiation source said.
The Brunei round of TPP negotiations was likely the last full-scale negotiations held, with countries expected to focus on intersessional meetings involving only one or two working groups from now on.
Aiming for a comprehensive free trade agreement, the TPP negotiations cover 21 fields, ranging from government procurement rules for public works projects to environment that involves fishing subsidies.