The United States is negotiating a state of the art, twenty-first Century, Free Trade Agreement with eight countries in the Pacific Rim. This “TransPacific Partnership” or TPP, brings together countries with which we have free trade agreements (Australia, Peru, Chile, Singapore) and countries with which we do not yet have open access to their markets (New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei).
The NAM believes that the TPP should be the beginning of the Free Trade Area of Asia and the Pacific– which would include Japan. Asia is the fastest-growing area of the world, and American manufacturers need to have open access to that market.
Yesterday, the United States Trade Representative published Federal Register notices requesting comments on the expression of interest that Canada, Japan and Mexico have shown in potentially joining TPP negotiations in light of the TPP’s high standards for liberalizing trade. It also asked for specific issues of concern to the United States regarding barriers to manufacturing trade, including non-tariff measures.
The NAM has called on the Administration to negotiate the broadest and deepest agreement and work with negotiating partners and domestic stakeholders to address sensitivities and concerns in a way that ultimately ensures the most comprehensive outcome possible.
We welcome the interest of Canada, Japan and Mexico but the negotiations cannot go back to the starting place and begin all over again. All three will need to eliminate non-tariff barriers which are still significant impediments to American exports given that Japan’s tariffs are very low, and Canadian and Mexican tariffs have been eliminated under NAFTA. A key question is how this can be done without delaying the conclusion of the agreement, at least among the original participants.
We hope that the consultations with the three governments will address quickly any issues that arise as a result of this request for comments so that the three can join the negotiations as soon as possible in 2012 and truly make the TPP the pathway to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.
Stephen Jacobs is senior director of international business policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
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