Pacific Trade Negotiators Seeking Elusive Final Deal

Pacific Rim trade ministers neared the final spurt of negotiations on an ambitious free trade pact on Thursday, but differences over farm exports and monopoly periods for next-generation drugs were preventing them from reaching an elusive final deal.  Ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would cut trade barriers and set common standards for 40 percent of the world economy, are meeting in Hawaii to try to hammer out a deal.

But major issues are still unresolved, including dairy exports and exclusivity periods for biologic drugs. The United States is pushing for 12 years but Australia and other countries want five.  “They are few but very contested,” Mexican Trade Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told Reuters of the outstanding issues.

A final news conference is scheduled for 1330 local time on Friday (1930 ET). Ministers appeared relaxed as they were garlanded with leis at the official photo.  “It’s tough,” said one official involved in the talks, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions, which seek to meld one-on-one negotiations over market access with a one-size-fits-all approach to rules.