By Jay Timmons and Phil O’Reilly
Ambition and speed. That’s what leaders of the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should seek as they meet in Bali this week.
Launched in 2011, the TPP promises tremendous gains for businesses and workers from Singapore to Seattle and Osaka to Auckland. By eliminating barriers to trade in goods and services and opening new commerce and investment opportunities, the deal would create a nearly $28 trillion market of almost 800 million consumers encompassing 40 percent of global trade.
Critically, a trans-Pacific trade agreement can put an end to trade barriers left over from last century and create modern, workable disciplines in new areas and rapidly developing fields of technology that define competitiveness in today’s economy.
The stakes in Bali couldn’t be higher. After 19 rounds of negotiations, leaders will be under pressure to strike a political bargain that puts the TPP on track to finish by the end of this year. With markets struggling to emerge from a devastating global recession, we need the jobs, growth and economic opportunity a free trade agreement could provide.
With every month that passes without a deal, we miss vital chances to boost trade and investment and unlock the potential of our peoples. Indeed, the World Trade Organization expects global trade growth to slip to a meager 2.5 percent this year.
But we must also get the TPP done right. Two years ago, our leaders called for “a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges.” They promised a TPP that is “a model for ambition and for other free trade agreements in the future.”
That bold vision must be at the forefront as leaders sit down at the bargaining table in Bali. They must agree that there should be no exceptions from product coverage. They must rise to the challenge in complex areas like the protection of the ideas, brands and innovations that drive and sustain our creative economies.
Leaders must deliver commitments that ensure our borders remain open to data flows, and that digital products and services receive non-discriminatory treatment. They must ensure that our investments overseas which are critical for bringing our businesses closer to customers are fully protected and subject to state-of-the-art, neutral and binding enforcement mechanisms for all sectors and for all types of investment contracts.
To succeed, businesses need an open market for goods, services and investment and effective rules which promote investment and innovation. We need the certainty of binding science- and risk-based food safety and animal and plant health commitments that are fully subject to dispute settlement.
At a time when the global rules-based system is under threat from many quarters, we can ill afford to compromise by changing the 65-year-old “general exceptions” provisions, which have ensured the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest but prevented them from hiding behind that exception to impose protectionist, non-scientific and unnecessarily trade-distorting measures.
Nearly two decades ago, Asia-Pacific Leaders met some 600 miles west of Bali in the West Javanese town of Bogor and set an ambitious goal of “free and open trade and investment” across the region. This week, New Zealand, the United States and ten other Asia-Pacific economies are moving closer to a deal that can achieve that goal.
Only a comprehensive, high-standard and commercially meaningful agreement that addresses 21st-century challenges will deliver free and open trade and investment. Getting there is possible. It will require commitment, strong leadership and an eye toward real results – not just an eye on the clock.
Jay Timmons is the President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers and Phil O’Reilly is the Chief Executive of Business New Zealand.
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