Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said “having a more robust and early-on method to address sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues should be an important part of any Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement” at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank last week.  Ambassador Siddiqui said the United States hopes to establish an arbitration mechanism that would resolve agricultural disputes at an earlier stage in the chapter on SPS standards, according to a BNA report.  However, TPP countries would still have the option of seeking dispute resolution at the World Trade Organization (WTO), he noted.  The TPP, which is under negotiation by nine participating countries, would maintain the same science-based standards as those established under WTO rules, Ambassador Siddiqui added.

The TPP agreement, in Siddiqui’s view, would be different from the WTO in that parties could seek consultation, information-sharing, and dispute resolution at an earlier stage rather than waiting for a WTO decision.  He also said TPP trade negotiators were looking at the harmonization of standards, lab testing, recognition of reciprocal SPS regimes, and progress made in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on SPS harmonization.  The WTO’s Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures allows countries to set their own food safety standards.  However, agricultural and health regulations must be based on science; apply only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health; and ensure that the rules do not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate among countries where identical or similar conditions prevail.

The United States and its eight partners in the TPP, which are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, will meet in San Diego on July 2-10 for the 13th round of talks.  U.S. officials have said there will be no inter-sessional negotiations as occurred prior to the  12th round of talks that just concluded on May 16 in Dallas.  TPP leaders have tasked negotiators with concluding the talks by the end of the year.