Japan, New Zealand agree to aim for progress on TPP by November

Japan and New Zealand confirmed Monday they will aim to reach an agreement with other signatories to move forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal by November despite the withdrawal of the United States.

“What is important now is whether the (remaining) members can share a view about the future direction of the TPP … and we hope to make efforts to reach an agreement” by November when a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will be held in Vietnam, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nobuteru Ishihara told reporters after talks with New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay in Tokyo.

Japan and New Zealand are among the 11 remaining Pacific Rim countries pursuing the TPP without U.S. involvement, but some countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia, which hope to boost exports to the United States, are believed to be reluctant to put the TPP into force without the world’s biggest economy.

“It is extremely important that the 11 countries unite and be clear about the future of the TPP” despite the “differences in the ideas and motives of the member countries,” said Ishihara, who oversees TPP negotiations.

The two ministers met as representatives of the 11 states will try to narrow their differences at a TPP ministerial meeting, set to take place on Sunday in Hanoi alongside the APEC trade ministers’ meeting from Saturday, also to be held in the Vietnamese capital.

“The TPP meeting in Hanoi will be an important meeting as we look to discuss the direction of the TPP,” Ishihara said, adding that Japan and New Zealand will seek to “lead the discussions.”

New Zealand formally ratified the TPP deal Thursday, becoming the second signatory country to do so after Japan, which completed domestic ratification procedures last December.

Among other members, Australia proposed at a recent working-level meeting that the data exclusivity period for biologic pharmaceutical patents be cut to five years from eight years under the original TPP deal.

During TPP negotiations, the United States sought a longer data exclusivity period while Australia argued longer protection of new biologic drugs from cheaper generic competition would raise the country’s health care costs.

The United States pulled out of the pact following President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

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