The 12 countries involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks are unlikely to reach even a broad agreement on the U.S-led ambitious initiative during ministerial talks scheduled for Nov. 8 in Beijing.
Discussion is under way on whether the leaders of the 12 countries should meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing later in November, but even if such talks were to be held, they would unlikely reach a broad agreement on the free trade initiative. Although some progress has been made, it remains difficult for them to reach agreement on everything, particularly over the sticky fields of tariffs and intellectual property rights. But the 12 countries are planning to maintain their stance to quickly strike a deal by the end of this year.
Akira Amari, the state minister in charge of the TPP, said at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 4, “It is difficult to reach political settlements in the areas of both market access (such as tariffs) and rules in Beijing.” Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, told reporters in Washington on Nov. 3, “I do not anticipate that there will be a significant breakthrough in trade talks while the president is traveling in Asia.”
The 12 TPP countries are scheduled to hold ministerial talks on Nov. 8 on the sidelines of the APEC forum in Beijing. Although no schedule has been fixed, the 12 countries are considering holding a summit meeting in Beijing thereafter. The 12 countries, including Japan and the United States, have been holding working-level talks, but there are still difficult issues to be resolved, and therefore a broad agreement is unlikely in Beijing.
U.S. President Barack Obama was upbeat about reaching a broad agreement, saying in June, “My hope is that by the time we see each other again in November, when I travel to Asia, we have got something that we have consulted with Congress about, that the public can take a look at.” Apart from the fact that Japan and the U.S. have not reached an agreement on Japanese tariffs on agricultural products, the TPP countries are also facing tough challenges in their talks over rules for intellectual property rights, reforms of state-owned enterprises and other issues.