The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is also turning into a platform for special interest groups to contribute their thoughts to what the U.S. and other trade delegates should be addressing. The TPP is made up of the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
"Only eight countries are here, so there's less complexity in the different competing agendas. So that makes it more possible that something different happens," Victor Menotti from the International Forum on Globalization said.
A group of labor-oriented organizations held a rally and marched to the InterContinental Hotel on Howard Street Monday morning where the meetings are underway through Friday. Representatives from fishing, farming, union and human rights groups would like to see the U.S. trade representatives do what they can to stem the flow of job losses caused by outsourcing manufacturing to other countries.
A contingent from the animal rights group PETA demonstrated outside the hotel over Australian livestock practices involving sheep. PETA has a campaign to end "mulesing" in which skin and flesh is removed from live animals to reduce the risk of maggot infestation.
The TPP had a plenary session in the morning but will mostly work in closed-door, small-group meetings the rest of the week. The working groups will be discussing technical barriers to trade, market access, legal and institutional issues, cross-border services, competition, investment and environmental issues.
The Pacific region is one of the most dynamic economic zones in the world, accounting for half of the globe's economic output and close to 50 percent of all trade.
Unlike the World Trade Organization's ministerial conferences, which have been held in Seattle, Hong Kong and Cancun in recent years, the TPP is welcoming special interest groups to make presentations to the U.S. and foreign trade delegations.
"President Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years. We strongly support that goal. We want to help him implement that goal, but we're not going to implement that goal if we don't move forward on a robust trade agenda," Christopher Wenk from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.
The so-called non-governmental organizations (NGO) have a room of their own at the trade conference. Known as stakeholders, they represent a wide range of interests, including the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the National Farmers Union, the AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club.