Chief negotiators for a 12-country Pacific Rim free trade initiative resumed their talks Monday in New York, as the United States and Japan push to reach a broad deal by around this spring.
The weeklong session of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is seen as an opportunity to resolve all but politically sensitive issues that need to be discussed at the ministerial level. Officials see this spring as an effective deadline for ending the five-year-old talks given the United States will enter campaign mode later this year for the 2016 presidential election.
The focus is on whether the top negotiators can bridge the gaps on contentious issues, such as intellectual property rights, tariffs and establishing unified rules for fair business competition, and set the stage for a ministerial meeting to secure a deal.
Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s chief TPP negotiator, told reporters before leaving for New York last week he “has no doubt” that the TPP countries will be able to see the prospect of setting a ministerial meeting “if Japan and the United States, which are the major economies (in the TPP framework), can collaborate and make utmost efforts to conclude the negotiations.”
Tsuruoka also noted the United States, which leads the TPP talks, has started to show its “seriousness” about sealing a pact.
Last Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his eagerness in his annual State of the Union Address to conclude the U.S.-led TPP talks, urging Congress to give him the fast-track trade promotion authority to secure a pact.
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