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Japan and U.S. trade chiefs will try Saturday to break impasse over TPP

Kyodo, JIJI

Japanese and U.S. trade chiefs will meet Saturday in Washington to seek progress in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks ahead of a ministerial conference slated for later this month, negotiation sources said Thursday.

Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, will hold talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, aiming to break the impasse over contentious bilateral issues that have hampered broader negotiations, the sources said.

In addition, working-level officials of the two countries will meet in Japan next week to discuss sticky TPP issues, other sources said.

Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will arrive in Japan on Monday and hold talks with Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief representative in the TPP negotiations, and other officials, the sources said.

Tokyo and Washington have been at odds over how to deal with tariffs on key farm products. Japanese farmers’ deep ties with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party make many politicians reluctant about free trade.

Auto trade is also one of the sticking points.

Amari has reiterated that the key to successfully concluding the negotiations at an early date is whether Japan and the United States, the two biggest economies in the TPP, can overcome differences in outstanding issues.

The TTP countries will hold a ministerial meeting in Singapore from Feb. 22 to 25.