SINGAPORE, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- A four-day Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial meeting kicked off in Singapore on Saturday, with the United States apparently pushing for the conclusion of the talks by the end of the year.
The latest round of talks are important as leaders and senior trade officials of the United States have recently said that they are hoping for the talks to conclude by the end of the year.
The meeting carried on with its tradition of negotiating behind closed doors. The participants include trade ministers and representatives of 12 countries such as Singapore, the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam.
The TPP talks were initiated by Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei Darussalam in 2005, but dominated by the United States after it joined the talks in 2008. Japan joined the TPP talks earlier this year.
Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said the TPP is envisioned as "a high-standard, comprehensive and forward-looking trade agreement that aims to address the challenges of the modern economy."
According to a statement, the agreement covers both new and traditional trade and investment issues, and seeks to create jobs and promote economic development, in "a bold step towards establishing a free trade agreement for the Asia Pacific."
It tackles not only issues such as trade liberalization in goods, services, investments, and government procurement, but also covers areas such as intellectual property rights, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, competition policy, labor and environment.
It will also incorporate new trade facilitation elements, such as the promotion of regulatory coherence, enhancement of cross- border supply chain connectivity and the facilitation of small and medium-sized enterprises among TPP members.
The trade pact is believed to be able to have an impact on regional and world trade, as it involves preferential treatment based on the origin of goods.
Non-governmental organizations have recently voiced their concerns over the leaked text on intellectual property, with the United States apparently pushing for more patent interests for multinational pharmaceutical companies, in the industry that has been dominated by the developed economies. It is believed that this may further raise the cost for medicine for the developing nations, especially the poor in these nations.