US firms urge Washington not to rush through landmark trade deal

Sun Oct 6, 2013 8:06pm EDT
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By Randy Fabi

NUSA DUA, Indonesia Oct 7 (Reuters) - U.S. multinationals have warned Washington not to compromise and weaken a landmark 12-nation Asia-Pacific free trade agreement in order to complete the deal by the end of this year.

After three years of talks, President Barack Obama's administration is making a final push to finalise the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would establish a free-trade bloc that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile.

The ambitious agreement would encompass 800 million people, about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy.

Obama had hoped to personally iron out the deal with other leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Indonesia this week, but was forced to cancel at the last minute because of the U.S. government shutdown.

"(Obama) set a very aggressive goal to try and get the TPP agreements done by the end of the year," U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told reporters on Sunday on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.

Major multinationals, like Wal-Mart and FedEx , have however expressed concern that the tight deadline could make U.S. negotiators vulnerable to compromise.

"For Wal-Mart, we would like to see a high-quality agreement, which is that no sectors and no products are excluded. That there are no compromises that leak into the process for the purpose of speed," Scott Price, the U.S. retailer's CEO in Asia, told Reuters.

"If it takes more time in order to have a high quality agreement, that's what we should have."   Continued...