Twelve countries negotiating for a Pacific free trade pact will hold ministerial talks from May 26 to 28 in the Philippines to seek ways to conclude a deal as soon as possible, a U.S. government official said Thursday.
The United States announced the schedule as Congress is deliberating a bill to help speed up the marathon negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that also involves Japan, Australia and nine other nations.
The TPP ministers last held talks in November in Beijing.
The high-level meeting on the TPP will follow trade ministerial talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on May 23 and 24 in the Southeast Asian country, Catherine Novelli, undersecretary of state, told a press conference. The Philippines is not taking part in the trade talks.
Remaining thorny issues include how to handle intellectual property, including data on new drugs, and reforms of state-owned organizations, according to negotiation sources.
Japan and the United States, the two largest economies in the envisioned pact, have remained at odds over bilateral issues such as Japan’s exceptional tariffs on some agricultural produce and automotive trades.
To prepare for the ministerial talks chief TPP negotiators from the 12 countries involved will resume their talks on May 14 in Guam, according to the undersecretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment.
The chief negotiators are expected to continue with their Guam meeting even after the TPP ministers gather in the Philippines, planning to end it on May 28, Novelli said.
In addition to the United States, Japan and Australia, the other countries taking part in the talks are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.