The 12 countries involved in the haggling over a Pacific free trade agreement are narrowing their differences on intellectual property rights, one of the issues blocking the conclusion of the pact, Akira Amari, minister in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, said Tuesday.
“There has been confrontations between emerging and developed economies in the area of intellectual property, but things are moving forward considerably,” Amari said.
“But I am aware that we have yet to reach an agreement” on the issue, Amari told reporters.
Emerging economies in Asia, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, have been at odds with the United States on intellectual property rights, which covers such issues as patents for new medicines and copyrights.
Chief negotiators from Japan, the United States and the 10 other participating countries are discussing these and other issues at their four-day meeting in Vietnam through Thursday, which will be followed by a ministerial gathering in Singapore on May 19 and 20.
The latest round comes after Japan and the United States, the biggest economies in the TPP, moved closer over the issue of market access for farm products and automobiles after a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama in April.
Although some progress has been seen recently, other thorny issues, such as the environment and the reform of state-owned firms, have yet to be resolved.
Amari said the ministers will start off “assessing the current situation” at the upcoming ministerial gathering.