Japan and the United States began ministerial talks Tuesday in Washington on a much-awaited bilateral agreement that is crucial before securing a multilateral Pacific Rim free trade pact.
The two-day meeting between Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman came as U.S. President Barack Obama looks to reach a deal in time for his trip to Asia in November.
The meeting between the trade chiefs, the first since May, is aimed at breaking a deadlock over thorny bilateral issues and advancing the broader 12-member negotiations.
A USTR spokesman said the Amari-Froman meeting “provides an opportunity to review progress, identify where gaps remain, and begin working through outstanding issues.”
After wrapping up the first day of talks, Amari told reporters in Washington negotiations with Froman have proven to be “difficult,” but added, “It’s not that we have no clear vision (for reaching an agreement) at all.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is visiting New York for the U.S. General Assembly, said Tuesday negotiations are “in the final phase,” but did not give concrete timing for concluding a deal.
Talks on the TPP, which would create a massive free trade zone encompassing some 40 percent of global output, have long been stalled due partly to bickering between Japan and the United States — the biggest economies in the TPP framework — over removal of barriers for agricultural and automotive trade.
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