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U.S. sets 2014 goal for signing TPP free trade pact

Kyodo

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has outlined a goal of concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year.

“In pursuit of job-supporting trade opportunities, the administration will work to conclude negotiations of the TPP in 2014,” the office said in a document attached to President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2015.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman stopped short of setting a deadline for signing the U.S.-led trade pact after he failed to reach an agreement with his counterparts from the 11 other TPP countries in last week’s ministerial meeting in Singapore.

The 12 countries, including Japan and Australia, missed the original deadline of 2013 due to disagreements over market access and intellectual property, among other contentious issues.

Gaps between the U.S. and Japan, the two largest economies in the envisioned free trade pact, over market access and auto trade have been a stumbling block to progress in the negotiations.

Bilateral talks next week

Jiji

Japan and the U.S. are expected to resume working-level talks next week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, sources said.

Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s acting chief negotiator, is likely to visit the U.S. and meet with acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler to discuss tariffs on five key farm product categories for Japan and other sensitive areas, the sources said.

While Washington is sticking to the TPP’s principle of blanket tariff removal, Tokyo hopes to exempt five categories from tariffs: rice, beef and pork, wheat and barley, sugar and starch, and dairy products.