Business

Abe urges all-out efforts during TPP talks in Atlanta

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday urged his nation’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact negotiators to make all-out efforts toward an agreement at their upcoming meeting in Atlanta.

“I hope the next ministerial meeting will be the last one,” Abe said at a meeting with ministers engaged in negotiating the proposed free trade bloc. Nations failed to strike a deal during their last talks, in July.

The United States said Thursday that it and the 11 other countries, which include Canada and Mexico, will hold two-day ministerial talks on the free trade pact from Wednesday in Atlanta.

If it comes into existence, the framework between nations, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide output, would likely serve to stimulate the global economy.

The success of the initiative is also an integral part of Abe’s “Abenomics” pro-growth policies. This much-vaunted package of measures has failed so far to lift the economy out of its long deflationary malaise.

Similarly, the economic prospects for China, the world’s second-largest economy and Japan’s biggest trade partner, are looking increasingly gloomy.

Akira Amari, minister in charge of the TPP, was not fully confident about reaching a final deal at the next meeting.

It would be “hard to say” the probability of agreement is 100 percent, he said. “But we will make utmost efforts to make this meeting the final one,” he told reporters after the meeting with Abe and other ministers.

The ministerial talks will follow a four-day session with chief negotiators starting Saturday, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Discussion of the pact has already stretched on for years. Failure to reach agreement at the meeting of ministers would leave little room for negotiations to be concluded anytime soon because of the political schedules in some countries involved, chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka told reporters Friday before his departure for Atlanta.

A general election is slated for Oct. 19 in Canada, stoking concerns that the country could change its trade policy under the next government.

The U.S. government has said TPP should be a key component of its policy of focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. It has worked on concluding the deal before the U.S. public attention fully shifts to next year’s presidential election.

Disagreement rests on issues such as intellectual property protection and the auto industry. Problems here prevented ministerial-level officials from wrapping up negotiations in the previous round in Hawaii in late July.

Michael Froman, U.S. trade representative, said earlier that the United States, Japan, Canada and Mexico made “steady progress” during their talks on remaining differences over the auto industry earlier this week in San Francisco.

The original TPP negotiations were launched in 2010 and involved the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Malaysia, Mexico, Canada and Japan joined the talks later.