Negotiations for a multilateral Pacific Rim free trade agreement may be halted if the 12 participating countries cannot strike a broad deal before a general election in Canada in October, Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari said Friday.
“After election campaigning starts in Canada, it will be difficult” to continue negotiations, Amari said in an interview.
“Looking at the situation from the standpoint of all 12 countries, we don’t know what will be the outcome of the Canadian election,” Amari said, adding the start of U.S. presidential election primaries early next year would also affect momentum for concluding a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.
But Japan is not pressed for time due to its domestic political schedule, and Tokyo is not planning to make easy concessions just because there will be a House of Councilors’ election next summer, said Amari, who is the minister in charge of TPP negotiations.
He expressed hope for holding the next ministerial meeting by the end of September, mentioning telephone talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday in which the two leaders agreed to keep on working together for an early resolution of the TPP.
“If we cannot hold a ministerial meeting in August, it is natural to consider September. Who would offer (concessions) when there is no (deadline for negotiations)?” Amari said.
But he added specific schedules for future negotiations have yet to be decided.
“We need to crystallize (the schedules) soon. We have yet to smooth the way” at the working-level, he said.
Trade ministers from the 12 TPP countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — last met in Hawaii for four days through July 31, but failed to secure an agreement due to differences over thorny issues such as intellectual property and liberalized trade of dairy products.