U.S. wants TPP ministerial talks in late February

Kyodo

The United States has proposed convening a four-day ministerial meeting for the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks starting Feb. 22 in Singapore, a Japanese official said Thursday.

The high-level gathering may not be held until March or later, however, due to differences over how to handle trade tariffs, the official, who did not want to be named, said Thursday.

There was no word on whether any of the participants had yet accepted the invitation.

Behind the proposal is Washington’s apparent intention to advance the Pacific Rim trade negotiations ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November, the official said.

The TPP members, which include Japan, Mexico, the United States and some Southeast Asian countries, remain at odds over such thorny issues as tariffs and intellectual property rights after missing the earlier deadline to reach a final deal by the end of 2013.

Initially, the TPP members explored the possibility of holding a ministerial meeting in January after they failed to break the impasse at a gathering in Singapore in December.

A January gathering has already been ruled out, however.