In Brief

6 June 2013

China Studying Prospect of Joining TPP Talks, Ministry Says

China is analysing the advantages and disadvantages of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, according to a statement released last week by the country's Ministry of Commerce. The announcement comes just over a month after Japan was invited to join the 11-country group currently negotiating the pact. (See Bridges Weekly, 25 April 2013)

Should Beijing eventually seek membership in the pact, all current members would have to sign off on China's entry. While many analysts have suggested that the TPP is being developed to help respond to the Asian economy's growing trade prowess, members have repeatedly said that Beijing is not being pre-emptively blocked from the talks. TPP countries welcome "any nation willing to meet the 21st century standards of the TPP - including China," then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last November.

Members have said that the TPP could serve as a template for a wider agreement that would encompass all 21 countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.  China is currently involved in another process with 15 other countries - including some TPP members - to negotiate a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, with a similar goal.

Current TPP members are aiming to bring the talks to a close by the end of this year, though trade observers have suggested that the process could drag out until early 2014.

ICTSD reporting; "China to study possibility of joining U.S.-led trade talks," REUTERS, 30 May 2013; "China to study joining U.S.-led trade accord after Japan added," BLOOMBERG, 30 May 2013.

Canada, EU Aim for June Agreement

Negotiations between the EU and Canada for a bilateral pact are in their final stage after almost four years of negotiations, officials said last week. The completion date for the agreement has been pushed back several times due to differences on issues such as public procurement, Canadian access to the EU's beef market, and intellectual property issues regarding pharmaceuticals.

Rumours have surfaced that the two sides are considering announcing an agreement "in principle" later this month, even if the full agreement has not been clinched by that time. The rush to conclude the Canadian-EU Agreement by June comes as Brussels prepares to shift its focus to the formal launch of its planned negotiations with Washington, which is expected in time for this month's G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.

ICTSD reporting; "Canada and EU down to final issues in trade talks," CBC NEWS, 31 May 2013; "Canada-EU trade talks at crucial stage," THE GLOBE AND MAIL, 31 May 2013; "Canada Finance Minister: Canada-EU Free Trade Discussions ‘at very serious level'," WALL STREET JOURNAL, 13 May 2013.

EU Officials Warn of Possible WTO Complaint Against Russia

EU officials warned last week that they are considering lodging a WTO complaint against Russia this summer, in what would - if launched - mark Moscow's first dispute at the global trade arbiter since its 2012 accession.

The proposed complaint would target a Russian law that imposes an "utilisation fee" of five percent of the sale price on foreign manufacturers in order to cover the cost of recycling cars and imported agricultural machinery. Domestic producers, however, are not required to pay the duty.

The law "clashes with the most basic WTO rules," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has said. EU officials reportedly plan to discuss the subject during next week's bilateral summit in Yekaterinburg, though Russian Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov has called it a "non-issue" given Moscow's plans to address the subject domestically.

Russian authorities were warned earlier this year that Brussels would start proceedings by 1 July if Moscow did not change the law. While Russia submitted a bill to its State Duma last Friday that, if passed, would apply the fee indiscriminately towards domestic and foreign manufacturers, EU officials have said that the law must be approved by their deadline in order for Brussels to abandon plans to file a dispute.

The explanatory note attached to the Russian legislation notes that the bill is geared toward reconciling domestic law with the country's WTO commitments, in order to avoid potential disputes at the organisation. (See Mosty, 31 May 2013)

ICTSD reporting; "Russia faces WTO Action over Auto Scrap Tax," THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1 June 2013.

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