Trade ministers from 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal plan to meet in London in late January, now that negotiations are unlikely to conclude by the end of this year, sources said Friday.
The meeting has been tentatively set for around Jan. 27, according to the sources.
The ministers met in Singapore this week to negotiate what has been billed as one of the world’s most ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreements.
At the end of the Singapore meeting, the ministers said they will meet again next month — but did not say where or when.
London was chosen apparently because it will be a convenient stopover for the trade ministers after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan. 22 to 25, the sources said.
Other member countries of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Although the United States had pushed strongly for a deal by year’s end, countries such as Malaysia did not want to rush the negotiations.
According to a statement released by the TPP ministers at the end of the Singapore meeting Tuesday, they “made substantial progress toward completing” the agreement and had identified potential “landing zones” for a majority of key issues.
On Thursday, the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry said on its website that the TPP leaders’ goal to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of the year “has been proven to be impossible to achieve.”
“While there was progress, wide gaps still remain in many of the chapters that would require further negotiations,” the Malaysiam ministry said, adding those issues include state-owned enterprises, environment, intellectual property rights and market access.
“There is a lot more work to be done by negotiators before negotiations can be finalized,” it said, adding that the negotiators are now working on the timetable for future work.