• Reuters


Current trade talks in Ottawa involving Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim countries will be key to advancing the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to its final stage by year-end, the country’s chief negotiator said Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama on June 20 announced his aim to have a free-trade draft he could take to meetings with other leaders in November, while negotiator Koji Tsuruoka also referred to a late-2014 goal.

“I understand that this meeting in Ottawa will be a very important step to bring the TPP to the final stage toward the end of the year,” Tsuruoka told reporters in Ottawa.

Frustrated by the lack of progress in global talks at the World Trade Organization, the 12 Pacific countries involved are trying to come up with a smaller-scale regional pact, although such an agreement could still get bogged down over long-standing sticking points such as Japan’s farming tariffs.

Tsuruoka said the United States and Japan made “huge progress” on auto and agricultural trade issues when Obama visited Tokyo in April, and they would continue negotiations after the multilateral TPP session in Ottawa wraps up on July 12.

He said it was “a little too high a goal” to hope the Ottawa talks would solve all the outstanding TPP issues.

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are also participating in the talks alongside Japan and the U.S.