TPP officials set to begin working-level meeting in Ottawa

Kyodo

Officials from 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative are set to begin an unusually long bout of negotiations in the Canadian capital on Thursday.

The 10-day meeting in Ottawa comes after U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped the countries will be able to reach an agreement on the TPP initiative in time for his next trip to Asia, scheduled for November, and ahead of midterm elections.

The officials are expected to focus on issues such as intellectual property rights, which concern the copyright of movies and patents for new medicines, and the reform of state-owned companies.

Beginning Saturday, chief negotiators from the 12 countries — which include Australia, Chile, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand — will hold talks. They will also engage in bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the plenary session, according to a government official.

A ministerial meeting, which usually follows working-level talks, is not being scheduled during the session in Ottawa. It isn’t known when a ministerial meeting, where trade chiefs could make final political decisions to seal a pact, might take place.

Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s top TPP negotiator, said in Tokyo before departing on Thursday that the meeting is a “very important occasion for bringing the TPP to the final stage.”

However, Tsuruoka added, “tough negotiations are needed before we can discuss schedules for the future.”