The 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations reaffirmed Friday their commitment to concluding a regional free trade agreement within this year as they wrapped up the ministerial meeting of their 19th round of talks in Brunei.
But the ministers also indicated in a joint statement adopted at the end of their two-day meeting that difficult issues remain in numerous fields.
“The TPP countries have explored how to develop a mutually-acceptable package, including possible landing zones on remaining sensitive and challenging issues and sequencing of issues in the final talks,” the statement said, adding particular areas of focus include market access, financial services, government procurement and intellectual property.
The ministers agreed to maintain “active engagement” in the run-up to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in October and said the leaders of the TPP countries are expected to meet on the margins of the meeting as they have in previous years.
“This meeting will be an important milestone as the 12 countries work intensively to conclude this landmark agreement,” the joint statement said.
The successful conclusion of the pact will create one of the world’s largest free trade areas as the members include Japan, which only joined from the July round of talks, and the United States.