• Kyodo

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Ministerial talks on putting together the U.S-led Trans-Pacific Partnership will take place May 19 and 20 in Singapore, a top U.S. official said Wednesday.

Ahead of the Singapore meeting, chief negotiators from the United States, Japan and 10 other members in the initiative will meet in Vietnam next week, Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, said in Washington.

“We’ll keep pushing to achieve the best possible deal we can achieve. This is hard work and negotiating a deal among 12 parties adds additional complexities, but opportunities as well,” Cutler said.

The 12 countries have been struggling to conclude the pact after missing their primary deadline at the end of last year.

At their previous gathering in Singapore in February, the ministers failed to sign the TPP due to large gaps on such issues as market access and intellectual property.

Tiyo and Washington are at odds over Japan’s insistence on tariff exceptions for five “sacred” agricultural products, and U.S. calls on Japan to remove nontariff barriers, such as regulations on safety standards.

Bridging such gaps was a key topic in last month’s summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama in Tokyo.

After the meeting, however, the leaders only released a statement saying both governments “identified a path forward” on bilateral TPP issues, which left many guessing about the opaque language.

Meanwhile, Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister of economy, trade and industry, discussed with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman the remaining gaps between the two countries over the TPP during their meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

Motegi and Froman met on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the OECD.

In London, Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, said Tokyo and Washington have yet to strike a deal over the sticking points under the TPP but agreed on a formula under which they can reach a deal.

“If we input various figures in the formula and settle (the differences) that would constitute a broad agreement,” Amari said.

Amari said he expects China to join the TPP sooner or later and it is necessary for Japan, the U.S. and other countries concerned to establish rules ahead of the influx.

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