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Trans-Pacific countries against U.S. proposals

Staff writer |
The timetable for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is slipping as negotiators in Brunei are concerned about U.S. proposals to give tobacco companies the power to sue governments and to weaken government control of state-owned enterprises.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, and Japan. Australia is not present at the trade ministers' meeting because of the election.

The joint statement released in Brunei described the remaining issues as "sensitive and challenging". The U.S. plan was to finish talks this year to fit in with a domestic political timetable.

Before the meeting New York mayor Michael Bloomberg accused President Barack Obama of bowing to "pressure from the tobacco industry" to dump a so-called safe-harbour provision that would have protected nations from being sued by tobacco companies for restricting the sale of tobacco products.

Australia's government has said it would not accept any provisions that would allow corporations to sue Australian governments. Malaysia's trade minister Mustapa Mohamed told that he would not be bound by arbiter-proposed clauses that would loosen Malaysia's grip on state-owned enterprises and threaten its program of giving preference to ethnic Malays when awarding contracts. He said other countries shared his concern about state-owned enterprises.

The negotiations will continue at an officials level before a ministerial meeting at APEC in Bali in October.

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