Trade ministers from the 12 countries involved in a Pacific Rim free trade deal are unlikely to meet again by the end of this month amid remaining differences that prevented them from finalizing negotiations last week, sources said Thursday.
Japan, the United States and the 10 other countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership will look at possibly reconvening a ministerial meeting in September, but the outlook is uncertain due to political schedules in some of the member countries, the sources said.
The TPP countries held a four-day ministerial meeting through last Friday on the Hawaiian island of Maui, but fell short of securing a broad agreement due to gaps over intellectual property and dairy liberalization issues.
Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari, who is in charge of Japan’s negotiations, said after the meeting that another ministerial session was eyed for late August.
There was speculation this may take place around Aug. 24-25, when economy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will gather in Malaysia.
But trade observers say there is likely to be a hiatus in negotiations for now, with the goal of signing a final agreement by the end of the year looking increasingly difficult.
Resuming the talks immediately may be difficult for the United States, which leads the TPP, and some other member nations amid their summer holiday seasons, while Canada is gearing up for a general election slated for October, making it difficult for Ottawa to engage in bold bargaining, the sources said.
The United States has sought to secure a TPP deal by the end of 2015, as concluding an agreement in the politically charged 2016 U.S. presidential election year is widely seen as difficult.
For Japan, the best scenario would be announcing a deal before the Upper House election in summer next year, the sources said.
The TPP, which would cover around 40 percent of global economic output, involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.