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Oz minister says Trans-Pacific partnership '90 per cent there'

Rest of world: nasty treaty 'might not happen at all'

Australia's trade minister remains one of the great optimists of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), telling local media he expects the deal to be sealed by the end of 2014.

In a paywalled article, The Australian Financial Review reports trade minister Andrew Robb saying the deal is “90 per cent there”, adding that it could be concluded “before the end of the year … with political will”.

Robb had previously stated that 2015 was a realistic date for the conclusion of TPP negotiations.

That's in spite of pessimism in other quarters. America's Congress, for example, hasn't yet bestowed on President Barack Obama the fast-track negotiating powers he would need, to get a rapid wrap to the treaty negotiations.

The Trans Pacific Partnership has repeatedly stalled on various aspects of the treaty: its drive to criminalise intellectual property infringements, its support for investor-state dispute settlement lawsuits, and most notably its handling of agricultural subsidies.

Although each round of negotiations ends with communiques reporting good progress, predictions that the treaty will be concluded “soon” repeatedly prove optimistic.

Trade ministers are now working to arrange a negotiating confab in Australia at the end of October, ahead of the G20 summit in Queensland.

American commentators, for example, aren't confident that the political will exists. The Washington Post, in this editorial, says “momentum behind the TPP seems to be flagging and the administration's goal of a tentative agreement by the end of 2014 is looking less feasible”.

Note the language the WashPo uses: while Australia's Robb considers completion to be feasible, President Obama's best hope was that a “tentative” deal would be reached.

The Global Post reports a similar sentiment from Kyodo News, writing that “It is highly uncertain … whether major progress can be made at the three-day meeting in Australia” from October 25 to 27. ®

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