By Azlan Othman in Honolulu
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam emphasised the need for officials to explore innovative ways to address the challenges in their Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations considering that the trade pact deal is comprehensive and addresses new generation issues. His Majesty expressed the hope that the negotiations could be concluded by next year.
His Majesty said this in a titah Saturday during the TPP Leaders meeting at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at the Hale Koa Hotel, Honolulu.
The first in the series of meetings during the two-day APEC summit was also attended by leaders from Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States of America and Vietnam.
While acknowledging the progress of negotiations and commending the efforts of the officials involved, His Majesty also shared that like other TPP members, Brunei Darussalam too faces some challenges in implementing TPP initiatives as it is resource intensive and covers new areas which require more time to address. In this regard, His Majesty appreciated TPP members' understanding on the need for flexibility, assistance and capacity building.
Notwithstanding, His Majesty reiterated that Brunei Darussalam remained committed to TPP and will continue to support the high aspiration and work together to achieve the shared goal. With regards to countries wishing to join the TPP, His Majesty said that TPP needed to be inclusive and welcome such interest.
During the meeting, leaders discussed on the progress of TPP negotiations and urged officials to expedite talks. The leaders also tasked the officials to continue their talks with economies interested to join the pact.
At the end of the meeting, TPP leaders issued the "Trans-Pacific Leaders Statement" where they expressed their commitment to dedicate the necessary resources to conclude the agreement as soon as possible.
Accompanying His Majesty at the meeting were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; and Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (R) Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Mohammad Yasmin bin Hj Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office.
In the evening, His Majesty attended a social dinner hosted by the US president and First Lady Michelle Obama in honour of the attending heads of APEC economies and their spouses. The dinner was held at the Maile Garden, Hale Koa Hotel, Honolulu.
Following the dinner, His Majesty and other leaders attended a cultural performance.
Meanwhile, following the meeting, US President Barack Obama said, "There are still plenty of details to work out, but we are confident that we can do so.
"We've directed our teams to finalise this agreement in the coming year," he said. "It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done." The negotiating teams will meet in early December and "continue their work and furthermore to schedule additional negotiating rounds for 2012", Obama said.
"We recognise that there are sensitive issues that vary for each country yet to be negotiated, and have agreed that together, we must find appropriate ways to address those issues in the context of a comprehensive and balanced package, taking into account the diversity of our levels of development.
"We have committed here in Honolulu to dedicate the resources necessary to conclude this landmark agreement," said Obama.
"The TPP will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people, which is my number one priority," Obama said.
"Taken together, these eight economies would be America's fifth largest trading partner. We already do more than $200 billion in trade with them every single year, and with nearly 500 million consumers between us, there's so much more that we can do together," he added.
In a larger sense, the TPP has the potential to be a model not only for the Asia-Pacific but for future trade agreements. It addresses a whole range of issues not covered by past agreements, including market regulations and how we can make them more compatible, creating opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in the growing global marketplace. It will include high standards to protect workers' rights and the environment. "So, again, I am confident that we can get this done," Obama added.
The deal between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, 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.
Today (Sunday), His Majesty will meet other 20 APEC leaders in the plenary session followed by dialogue with APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), a working lunch and second plenary session before leaving Hawaii at around 5pm.
AFP adds: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave a major boost ahead of the summit as his nation became the 10th member of the TPP, meaning that it will cover more than one-third of the global economy and could develop into the world's biggest free trade zone, dwarfing the European Union.
"I have been extremely impressed already with the boldness of his vision," Obama said.
The TPP was signed in 2005 as an obscure agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Obama suddenly turned it into the cornerstone of US free trade drive, with Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam now also in the talks.
In a joint statement, leaders of TPP nations said they shared a "strong interest" in expanding their membership.
The major outlier of the TPP is China, the world's second largest economy. Obama, shortly before holding talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, warned that Beijing must "play by the rules" in international trade and intellectual property protection.
The United States has not explicitly ruled out China's entrance into the TPP, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has linked the trade agreement to fundamental values including openness and labour standards.
- Borneo Bulletin
(14th Novempber 2011)