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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     18 October  2011

Asia-Pacific countries meet on trade deal

The United States and eight other Pacific countries hope to announce the crux of a major trade deal at an Asia-Pacific summit next month, officials said Monday, a step toward an elusive APEC-wide accord.

US trade officials said leaders from nine nations should herald the "broad outlines of an agreement" at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which will be hosted by President Barack Obama in his native Honolulu on November 12-13.

The deal, which has been at least two years in the making, would bind countries that together account for a quarter of world economic output.
Negotiators from the nine are to gather in Lima from Wednesday for 6-10 days of talks to finish sketching the accord, said Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative.

More negotiations will likely be necessary after the Honolulu meeting, but the deal is expected to cover supply chain management, intellectual property protection, investment, rules on state-owned firms and a host of other trade issues.

"It's comprehensive, it's going offer access to a couple of very important growing markets in Vietnam and Malaysia and a developed market in New Zealand," said Douglas Goudie, head of international trade policy at the US National Association of Manufacturers.

Many hope the agreement --- between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam -- will provide a stepping stone to a deal that would include regional powerhouses China, Japan and Russia.

While the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks appear to be bearing fruit, broader talks to create a fully-blown Asia-Pacific free trade deal have long withered on the vine.

Trade groups hope that the Honolulu meeting and the TPP's conclusion will inject some political momentum into that process.

Covering around 50 percent of global commerce, a deal that covers all 21 economies of APEC has the potential to significantly recast world trade flows.

"I think any APEC-wide free trade agreement is inherently a long-term concept, but this is an important step along the way," said John Goyer of the US Coalition of Service Industries.

According to trade experts, Japan may now play a key role in deciding whether the TPP becomes the basis of a major hemispheric deal, or another in the long list of multilateral accords.

"The more countries are engaged in that negotiation, the more appealing it becomes to other countries,” said Goyer.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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