House Panel Sets Up Hearing on Pacific Rim Trade Pact

By Vicki Needham – Originally published 12/07/11 04:48 PM ET The Hill

A House panel next week will hold a hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact designed to eliminate trade barriers in the Pacific Rim, as negotiations move forward.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade announced a hearing on Wednesday set for Dec. 14 on the agreement that U.S. trade officials say will include stronger protections of intellectual property rights and provide new opportunities for U.S. goods, services and investment. 

“Opening up markets in the Asia-Pacific region for American goods and services must be a priority for robust U.S. long-term growth to create good U.S. jobs, increase the competitiveness of U.S. exporters, and to preserve U.S. influence and leadership in the region,” Brady said in a release.

Currently the deal is between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam seeks to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in the region as an avenue to reviving the world economy.

The nations reached the broad outlines of an agreement on Nov. 12  during the U.S.-hosted Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Hawaii.

Canada, Mexico and Japan said last month they are interested in a eat at the negotiating table.

So far, China, the world’s second largest economy behind the U.S., has yet to show much interest in joining the pact.

“We should also welcome new countries to the TPP if they are willing to meet TPP’s high ambitions and resolve outstanding bilateral issues,” Brady said.

“I look forward to hearing about the administration’s plans for completing an agreement that will garner bipartisan support.”

Nine rounds of negotiations of the TPP agreement have been held so far, additional rounds are scheduled for 2012 with an aim to complete the pact, possibly, by the summer.

Meanwhile, Lori Wallach, director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said Wednesday that negotiations are taking place in extreme secrecy and leaked portions of the text reflect “have shown that the deal likely will repeat the worst aspects of past trade deals.”

She said the Obama administration’s TPP talks in Malaysia this week “underscore the point that critics of this potential trade deal have been making for months.”

“More than 600 executives from corporations have been named as official U.S. trade advisors and have access to the texts and talks,” she said. “But members of Congress, journalists and the people whose lives will be most affected have no ability to see what our negotiators are bargaining for ± and bargaining away — until a deal is final and it is effectively too late for changes.”

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