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Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be reached by the end of the week

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Australian Minister for Trade Andrew Robb. Photo: Lukas Coch – Pool/ Getty Images.

World trade ministers of the 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia and the United States, will meet for negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today.

Once complete, the TPP deal will cover 40% of the world’s economy and define the rules for trade and investment in those countries.

At the top of the agenda for the Australian trade minister Andrew Robb is biologic patents and market access around sugar and dairy, part of negotiations he expects will be concluded by the end of the week.

Speaking on the ABC’s AM program yesterday, Robb said the leaders were close to coming to an agreement, and that there a just “the last few issues” on the table.

“Different companies, different issues really, for Australia of course the biologics, what protection periods extend to biologic has been an issue from the outset and is still unresolved.

“Some market access issues are still in the discussion stage and sugar is in that category, same of dairy. Depending on the country, it is different issues,” he said.

The US is pushing for TPP countries to agree to protect data used to develop next-generation biological drugs for 12 years.

While this would increase the cost of medicines for Australia and New Zealand, the pharmaceutical industry argues it would accelerate the introduction of cheaper, generic drugs by giving developers more certainty.

Failure to meet an agreement this week be an added pressure to the looming 2016 presidential campaign. If the leaders meet an agreement, the deal would need to go through Congress before the official campaign starts.

Read more here.

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