Recently, Techdirt has written dozens of stories about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). That's largely because it seemed to be coming to a conclusion, after many years of negotiations, and so it was important to capture the last-minute twists and turns -- and the dirty deals -- as they happened. But as we reported a few weeks ago, that final breakthrough and completion never happened. Instead, we had the "Maui meltdown", when a whole bunch of old and new problems raised their heads, with the result that TPP may have missed a key deadline that means it won't be happening soon, if ever. That may have seemed an extravagant claim, but it is a sentiment that is gradually beginning to spread among commentators in Asia. Here, for example, is The Diplomat, a specialist title covering that part of the world: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is in trouble. Trade ministers failed last month to conclude the massive 12-nation trade deal by their hoped-for summer deadline, putting negotiations in danger of collapse. The Straits Times offers a very similar view from Singapore: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seems to be in deep trouble. Earlier this month, negotiators in North America tried to resolve differences over auto parts which were -- along with issues on dairy and sugar -- among the key obstacles to the deal which was meant to be finalised last month in Hawaii.
But as the weeks tick by, the chances are dwindling that these obstacles can be overcome in time to get the agreement to the United States Congress for approval before the US presidential primary elections begin in earnest in February next year.
And everyone seems to agree that once the primaries begin, the TPP is off the agenda indefinitely. Another specialist title for Asia, Nikkei Asian Review, goes further, and makes the following comment: The truth is that the TPP is a second-best option for Asia that will create significant adjustment problems, especially for smaller countries. The priority for Asia should be the RCEP, and if the U.S. and other countries want closer trading relations with Asian countries, it should be in that context. Techdirt introduced the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) back in June, pointing out that it could end up even worse than TPP. But while TPP is at a standstill, RCEP seems to be moving forwards, as this article in The Jakarta Post explains: Southeast Asian countries and their trading partners will continue their talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this October as China and Japan eventually agreed on certain thresholds for import duties on Monday.