Abe skeptical about Obama’s future influence on TPP talks

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is concerned about whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact talks will be finalized while U.S. President Barack Obama can wield influence, TPP minister Akira Amari indicated Thursday.

“The prime minister is concerned” about how the negotiations will proceed following a major setback for the Democrats led by Obama in the U.S. midterm elections earlier this week, Amari told reporters after meeting with Abe at the latterr’s office.

“I, myself, hope that (Obama) will exert influence until the talks reach a deal,” Amari said, amid uncertainty over what impact the election results may have on the negotiations for the tariff-cutting pact.

Trade ministers from the U.S.-led TPP negotiating countries, including Amari, are expected to get together in Beijing later this week on the sidelines of annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The 12 TPP nations have struggled to strike a deal due in part to Japan-U.S. bickering over market access for agricultural products and autos.

The countries, all of which are also APEC members, have been trying to reach a broad agreement by the end of this year, but Amari has already expressed pessimism about the possibility, saying it appears difficult Japan and the United States will reach a compromise soon.

The TPP negotiating nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.