The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade disagreement talks continue to resemble a slow-motion train wreck, with the latest round of negotiations apparently stalled over agricultural subsidies.
According to Reuters, the latest round of talks in Singapore ground to a halt because America and Japan are butting heads over the latter's protectionist attitude towards rice, wheat and meat production.
However, the list of contentious points is larger than that, suggesting that in spite of sanguine statements from participants, movement behind closed doors remains slow. The New York Times states that intellectual property provisions remain controversial, along with rules covering state-owned enterprises and government procurement.
Hopes that an agreement would be ready for US President Barack Obama to wave around on a visit to the region in April appear to have been dashed, since the next meeting of ministers hasn't been scheduled.
The twelve-country talks (the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico and Peru) have been largely conducted in secret, with treaty texts reaching the public only via leaks.
Past leaks have shown that the IP provisions of the TPP – which would impose harsher restrictions on copyright, including criminalisation of infringement; would restrict parallel importation of copyright materials; and which would restrict countries' access to generic pharmaceuticals – are deeply unpopular among the negotiating countries.
Leak-watchers will be keenly awaiting the negotiating texts used in Singapore. ®