TPP members mulling less strict standards for developing economies

Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations are considering setting less strict standards for four developing economies in some areas, sources familiar with the negotiation said Saturday.

Under the plan, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam and Brunei would be allowed to special treatment, such as more time to achieve targets in such fields as intellectual property protection, the sources said.

The four nations were picked as they are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Singapore is also not an OECD member among the 12 nations in the TPP negotiations, but it is classified as a developed economy as its gross domestic product per capita is at a high level, the sources said.

If realized, the plan could break the deadlock between developed and developing countries over the length of intellectual property protection term and the target for achieving fair competition between state-owned enterprises and private firms.

But it could also undermine the spirit of the TPP as the member states have been seeking high-standard, unified trade and investment rules among the members.

The 12 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The countries are seeking to reach consensus on the plan during the TPP ministerial meeting through Sunday and report it to a TPP summit on the Indonesian island of Bali on Tuesday. The meetings are being held on the margins of the annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

U.S. President Barack Obama was scheduled to preside over the TPP summit meeting, but was forced to cancel his trip to Indonesia due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government over a budget impasse.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a press conference that New Zealand Prime Minster John Key will now chair the meeting.

Froman also said Friday that Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the summit in place of Obama.