Officials from the 12 countries involved in a Pacific Rim free trade initiative began their negotiations in the Canadian capital of Ottawa on Thursday, as the United States pushes for an early deal.
The unusually long 10-day meeting comes after U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hopes for producing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative in time for his trip to Asia in November, as he rushes to yield an outcome before midterm elections.
The officials are expected to focus on such issues as intellectual property rights, which concern the copyright of movies and patents for new medicines, and the reform of state-owned firms aimed at ensuring fair competition.
From Saturday, chief negotiators from the 12 countries — which also include Australia, Chile, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand — will hold talks. They will also engage in bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the plenary session, according to a Japanese government official.
A ministerial meeting, which usually follows working-level talks, is not being scheduled on the margin of the session in Ottawa. It is as yet unknown whether a ministerial meeting, at which trade chiefs could make final political decisions to seal a pact, will take place later somewhere else.
Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s top TPP negotiator, said in Tokyo before departing for Canada on Thursday that the meeting in Ottawa is a “very important occasion for bringing the TPP to the final stage,” expressing hopes for progress so the officials can set a date for a ministerial meeting.