Japan’s minister in charge of Pacific trade talks said Tuesday he needs to meet with his U.S. counterpart before an expected late May gathering of ministers from the 12 countries involved in the regional initiative.
Akira Amari, the minister in charge of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, told reporters in Tokyo that Japan and the United States “must have a chance to solve the remaining issues” between the two countries ahead of the envisioned entire TPP session, which will likely be held in Singapore around May 20.
Despite marathon talks involving Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan last week, the two countries were unable to secure a broad deal, only saying in a joint statement that they have “identified a path forward” on bilateral issues.
Prior to the Singapore ministerial meeting, senior trade officials of the 12 TPP countries are expected to meet in Ho Chi Minh City from May 12 to 15, according to negotiation sources.
Amari said a TPP ministerial meeting will be set if the senior officials can resolve their concerns and find a path toward a broad agreement.
The TPP negotiations involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Trade observers say little progress is expected in the Singapore meeting unless Tokyo and Washington — which together account for some 80 percent of combined gross domestic product in the TPP — move much closer. The issue of market access for agricultural products and autos remains the biggest sticking points in bilateral talks.