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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        20  May 2011

Talks move forward on Trans-Pacific trade deal

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Asia-Pacific nations said on Thursday they were making progress on reaching a free trade framework by November as the United States urged negotiators to look beyond deadlocked WTO talks.

Meeting in the ski resort of Big Sky, Montana, officials from nine nations said they made headway in building the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership with talks focusing on legal language and requests by more nations to join.

The negotiators in a joint statement "expressed their goal of reaching the broad outlines of an agreement by November."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership involves Indonesia, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, all part of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

APEC leaders agreed last year in Yokohama, Japan, to seek the framework for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in time for the forum's next summit in Honolulu this November.

Supporters hope a successful deal would serve as a template for a sweeping agreement across all of APEC, which accounts for 40 percent of the world's population and the three largest economies: the United States, China and Japan.

Efforts led by the 153-member World Trade Organization to reach a global deal have all but collapsed. WTO chief Pascal Lamy said last month the decade-old Doha round was stuck over the basic issue of industrial tariffs.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, addressing the talks involving APEC officials and Lamy, admitted that simply restating support for the Doha round would sound "increasingly hollow."

President Barack Obama's administration has billed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a "21st-century deal" that addresses public concerns by opening trade but also protecting labor and environmental standards.

But the United States has set more narrow goals for this year's APEC-wide talks, hoping for concrete achievements at the Honolulu summit.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Wednesday appealed in Big Sky for APEC to reduce barriers for trade in clean energy, saying the sector can create millions of jobs due to high fuel prices and efforts to fight climate change.

Michael Froman, Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, reported a mixed reaction with some APEC nations preferring to talk more generally about policy on clean energy.

"While some economies expressed a willingness to pursue an ambitious agenda in this area, several economies expressed concern about the timing of tariff and non-tariff measures," Froman said.

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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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