Japan and the United States continued the second of two days of tough trade talks on Monday that could pave the way for a broader trans-Pacific agreement, although Tokyo shrugged off expectations of a bilateral deal in time for a summit next week.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking on an evening news program in Tokyo, said negotiators were engaged in “intense” talks but that the discussion had narrowed to a few, lingering items.
Abe likened the talks to mountain climbing, saying there was “one, tough stretch” to complete.
“We would like to redouble our efforts so that a deal can be reached,” he said.
Access to Japan’s rice market and the U.S. auto parts market remain obstacles to a bilateral deal between the two nations, which is vital to the success of a long-delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting in Tokyo, Economy Minister Akira Amari said top-level negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, would be “very tough”, adding that bilateral talks would hit the “most critical stage”.
The world’s biggest and third-biggest economies account for some 80 percent of the economic output of the 12-member TPP.