SINGAPORE – Ministers from the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations wrapped up a four-day meeting Tuesday without a full agreement but said they made “substantial progress” toward hammering out a final deal.
Missing the end-of-year target for an accord, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the negotiators will meet again “next month” and will continue “intensive work” toward sealing the pact.
Japan and the U.S., which have wrestling over such thorny issues as Japanese tariffs on farm products as well as the auto trade, failed to resolve their differences in Singapore, hampering the overall effort.
The various TPP nations also agreed to carry over to next year discussions on other remaining issues, such as intellectual property rights and reform of state-owned firms, which have divided developed and developing economies, a negotiation source said.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office, told reporters earlier in the day that the negotiators only had “a limited time” to solve a number of difficult issues.
The TPP pact, which was initially negotiated by eight countries, now has 12 members — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
The pact would encompass roughly 40 percent of world gross domestic product and one-third of world trade. It is also seen as having the political purpose of countering the growing influence of China.
South Korea is considering joining the accord, but some participants worry that momentum for striking a deal could be lost after missing the yearend deadline, given the difficulty of making concessions on all issues.
The latest TPP session came after the World Trade Organization on Saturday reached agreement on some of the issues under the long-stalled Doha Round of trade liberalization talks.