LAHAINA, Hawaii, July 29 (Reuters) - Pacific trading partners are deadlocked over intellectual property protections, including monopoly periods for next-generation drugs, Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Wednesday.
Amari said he saw no sign of the United States backing down on a demand to protect for 12 years data used to develop biologic drugs, which are made from living cells.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb has said he sees no legitimate reason to extend past five years.
“There is still a huge gap over patents,” Amari told reporters after Wednesday’s plenary session. He said talks between ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would continue on Thursday.
Many are concerned that longer monopoly periods will push up the cost of state-subsidized medicines and delay the introduction of cheaper alternatives, although pharmaceutical companies say the opposite is true.
People briefed on the TPP talks saw signs of progress on other sticky issues, such as Canada’s dairy market, as farmers kept up pressure for Canada to allow in more imports.
The Canadians Agri-Food Trade Alliance says 90 percent of the country’s farmers rely on exports, from canola to beef. Canada is at a disadvantage compared to Australia in exporting beef to Japan, after tariffs on Australian beef were cut under a bilateral trade deal.
“That disadvantage is new this year and will continue to grow if there is no deal,” Canadian Cattlemen’s Association international relations director John Masswohl said.
For its part, Japan is demanding that the United States increase its quota for low-tariff imports of Japanese beef to 3,000 tonnes per year from the current 200 tonnes, Japanese lawmakers with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.
Officials from TPP countries are also discussing ways to prevent unfair manipulation of currencies to gain an export advantage, a U.S. Treasury official said.
A U.S. proposal would set up a forum to debate currency issues among finance officials from TPP countries, separate from the trade agreement.
The U.S. Treasury said the move was aimed at meeting congressional demands for a tougher stance against currency manipulation, but the move stops short of the sanctions many lawmakers want.
U.S. Democrat Sander Levin, whose state of Michigan is home to automakers such as Ford Motor Co worried about competition from Japan under the TPP, said any agreement on currency had to be effective.
“There are discussions going on to see if a provision can go beyond having meetings of ministers,” he said. (Writing by Krista Hughes; Editing by Jon Boyle)