WASHINGTON – U.S. trade chief Michael Froman said Thursday there is no prospect of clinching an agreement on a contentious Pacific free trade initiative at the upcoming summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“We do not expect to have a final agreement on TPP at APEC” in Beijing, Froman said at an event in Washington, referring to the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which involves the United States and 11 other countries.
He said the summit, to be held from Nov. 10 to 11, will be a good opportunity for the leaders of the TPP members to “have conversations with each other about the TPP, about whatever outstanding issues are left and to give more political impetus to getting it done.”
But the U.S. trade representative did not mention any time frame for concluding the U.S.-led talks, which have failed to make tangible progress due mainly to a gulf between the United States and Japan over vehicles and farm produce.
The United States and all 11 other countries involved — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — are among the 21 members of APEC.
Froman and counterparts from the 11 countries, accounting for roughly 40 percent of world gross domestic product, held a ministerial-level meeting on the TPP from Saturday through Monday in Sydney but failed to strike a deal on quickly concluding the initiative.
The TPP countries plan to hold another round of ministerial talks on Nov. 8 on the sidelines of APEC events, but it is unknown yet whether the 12 countries will hold a leaders’ meeting in the Chinese capital.
Froman kept silent about the schedule for possible deliberations in Congress after Tuesday’s midterm elections on a bill that would give the president fast-track authority to promote talks on the TPP.
“We’ll leave it to Congress” hoping to see bipartisan support, Froman told a separate event Thursday on the possibility of debating a bill for the elusive Trade Promotion Authority before the new legislators’ terms formally begin in January.
The legislation would allow the president to present a deal to Congress that it can only endorse or reject without amendment.
Agreement on TPP is already a year overdue. The talks’ primary deadline was at the end of 2013.