Twelve-nation trans-Pacific trade pact finalized

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Washington (dpa) – Twelve Pacific Rim countries reached an agreement Monday on a trade pact that will lift most duties on trade and investment, set new business standards and protect intellectual property rights, the countries’ trade ministers said.

The final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership was reached in the US city of Atlanta after talks that were extended through the weekend.

“After more than five years of intensive negotiations, we have come to an agreement that will support jobs, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region,” the ministers said in a statement.

“Most importantly, the agreement achieves the goal we set forth of an ambitious, comprehensive, high standard and balanced agreement that will benefit our nation’s citizens,” they said.

The US-led initiative, which US President Barack Obama aims to make one of his signature achievements, would encompass nearly 40 per cent of the world’s economy and help to tilt the economic balance of power in the region away from China.

The Pacific Rim countries involved in the negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Obama, who made the agreement one of the pillars of his foreign policy agenda as part of a focus on Asia, must now push the measure through Congress. His own Democrats have expressed skepticism of the deal, which they fear would hurt US jobs and manufacturing.

Obama has sought to paint the deal as opening up new markets for US companies and said Monday that it “reflects America’s values and gives our workers the fair shot at success they deserve.”

“When more than 95 per cent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy,” he said. “We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”

In June, Obama signed legislation that gave him fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals by giving Congress a simple yes or no vote once the package is negotiated, barring complicating amendments.

Once the final text of the agreement is delivered to Congress, its members will have 90 days to review it before Obama can sign it.

Disagreements over rules for the automotive, dairy and pharmaceutical industries had proven late sticking points as negotiations for the deal entered their final hours.

The US and European Union are negotiating a seperate trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which would create the world’s largest free trade zone.

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