Stellar team of former US trade reps talk the big game on TPP

Six USTRs (United States Trade Representatives) shared their Olympian insights into the intricacies of global trade at the Pacific Partnership forum in Washington this week. The big talking points were the opportunities and realities of the TPP negotiations, the US EU international trade and investment agreement, and the WTO.

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement – with a due completion date of October 2013 – includes the US, NZ and 10 other countries.

The session was moderated by Bill Reinsch, a former US Under-Secretary of Commerce.

Who’s Who?
  • Carla Hills –  Carla served as USTR in the George Bush (41) administration from 1989-1992 where she was not only the primary U.S. negotiator of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but also took the US lead in the Uruguay Round. At 79, she is still as sharp as a tack, a formidable woman with great clarity and presence.
  • Clayton Yeutter – Clayton, 82, held the agriculture portfolio in the George Bush (41) Cabinet. He was USTR from 1985-1989 during the Reagan Administration and also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee in 91/92. Yeutter has been a powerful behind-scenes player urging the US and NZ to move closer together on all fronts.
  • Bill Brock – Brock, 82,  a former Republican US Senator was Ronald Reagan’s first USTR (1981-1985)  before becoming Secretary of Labor. Like Yeutter, he also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
  • Charlene Barshefsky – Charlene, 61, served as USTR under the Clinton Administration (1997 to 2001). She was the primary negotiator with China’s Zhu Rongji on the terms for China’s entry into the WTO in December 2001.
  • Micky Kantor – Mickey, 74, succeed Carla Hills as USTR in 1993 after Bill Clinton assumed the presidency (he was chair for the Clinton-Gore campaign). Kantor led the US negotiations that created the WTO.
  • Susan Schwab – Susan, 58,  was USTR in the George Bush (43) Cabinet serving from 2006-2009. It was Schwab who announced that the US would seek to join the P4 trade agreement after lengthy discussions with former NZ Trade Minister Phil Goff. The upshot is the TPP negotiations.
Robert Zoellick – who spoke earlier in the day – wasn’t part of the panel. Zoellick served as USTR in the first term of George Bush (43) presidency. Together with then EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy he kept the transatlantic channels open at a time of widespread European antipathy to the Iraq invasion.

On TPP:-

Barshefsky  – is optimistic the deal could get done this year but needs leadership;

Hills – is optimistic the TPP deal will get done but “not this year”. The US is getting a lot of pressure to extract more benefits. She suggested open architecture. The big question was whether the US will take a broad view and say the deal is for the good of the US economy or bow to domestic pressure to exempt sugar or fuss over dairy. Suggests a services agreement should be out into TPP  – “that’s where our jobs are for future.”

Yeutter  – believes there is a lot more on the table for the US now that Japan wants into the TPP. But he says there us “not a prayer it will get done this year.”  Even if Japan had not come in, from the US standpoint the talks are more likely to finish next year and present in early 2015.

Kantor – says it’s a  terrific agreement. It needs to get  done, but ‘What does it lead to?’ is the key question. How to deal with China, Taiwan and South Korea were issues. ‘This gives us a chance – it really is a terrific step forward”.

Brock – reckons if you are going to worry about what comes next, ” we don’t do it.” We had better start moving. I we do not do in the next  twelve months we won’t do the following year. It;s  got the same rubric and a different  election coming up. It also needs fast track – if not forget it. “The president has got to lead or take a walk.”

Schwab – says it is doable and can be closed out fast.

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