Officials from 12 Pacific Rim countries wrapped up their four days of talks Monday for a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, setting the stage for what many hope will be the final round of negotiations for realizing the most ambitious trade deal in decades.
Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari said significant progress was made as a result of “tough” bargaining among chief negotiators in the run-up to a crucial four-day ministerial session starting Tuesday on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
“I have an impression that there has been substantial progress,” Amari told reporters after arriving in Hawaii.
The minister reiterated that he hopes this round of talks will be the last, and said that he believes “each nation shares the same thoughts.”
Although Washington, which leads the initiative, is putting pressure on other TPP members to finalize a deal, some negotiation sources are skeptical about whether the ministers will be able to agree on details in Hawaii given huge remaining gaps over difficult problems.
Such problems include liberalization of protected industries, the length of patents for new medicines, and reform of state-owned companies heavily protected in some economies.
Japan’s Amari admitted that the negotiations on intellectual property have been extremely difficult during the chief negotiators’ meeting.