4 October 2013
Obama cancels APEC trip, TPPA trade-off talks torpedoed
‘The US budget standoff has thrown the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement into complete disarray and surely puts paid
to any claims they can finish the deal by the end of the year’, said University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.
The White House announced around 4pm (New Zealand time) that President Obama has cancelled his trip to Bali for APEC,
where the political trade-offs on the TPPA were expected to get underway.
Obama had already canned the Malaysia and Philippines legs of his Asia trip, which was seen as a blow to the US strategy
to reassert its presence in the region and impress on its political leaders that the US takes Asia seriously.
Secretary of State John Kerry will apparently replace Obama at APEC. Presumably, this means Kerry will also chair the
meeting of leaders from TPPA countries on the margins at Bali.
‘Claims they would finish the TPPA by the end of the year already seemed fanciful’, according to Kelsey.
A meeting of the chief negotiators last week
made no significant progress on key areas of disagreement.
Despite claims negotiations are in their ‘end game’ four chapters – intellectual property, transparency in healthcare
technologies, state-owned enterprises and environment - are in total disarray.
The US is still playing ducks and drakes on market access for agriculture.
Moreover, the US President has not formally moved to get Congress to grant him fast track authority. Without that,
Congress can pick apart any ‘final’ deal reached by the twelve countries.
On Wednesday the blogsite of the Council on Foreign Relations
was already calling Obama’s Southeast Asia trip futile and predicting there was no way Obama would get fast track from
Congress again, even if they did actually finalise TPPA. ‘Without fast track, and with so many concerns in Congress over
the vast scope of the TPP, it would likely be dead on arrival on the Hill’.
‘The TPPA is looking increasingly precarious’, Professor Kelsey observed.
‘Now is a good time for the National government to step back and engage in democratic debate about more progressive ways
to advance the interests of New Zealand in the 21st century’.