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Obama sure of deal as ministers plan end-Sept talks on TPP

TOKYO — Twelve Pacific Rim countries will hold a ministerial meeting later this month in Atlanta in the United States as they look to conclude years of negotiations on creating one of the world’s biggest free trade zones, negotiation sources said yesterday.

Obama sure of deal as ministers plan end-Sept talks on TPP

Ministers from the 12 countries failed to reach a broad agreement on the initiative during their talks in late July in Hawaii. Photo: Reuters

TOKYO — Twelve Pacific Rim countries will hold a ministerial meeting later this month in Atlanta in the United States as they look to conclude years of negotiations on creating one of the world’s biggest free trade zones, negotiation sources said yesterday.

A meeting of chief negotiators from the US, Japan, Canada and nine other member countries involved in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks will begin from Sept 26, followed by a two-day meeting of ministers from Sept 30, one of the sources told Kyodo News.

Negotiators see the need for striking a deal ahead of the general election in Canada planned for Oct 19 and before the national focus in the US shifts later this year to the 2016 presidential election, as politicians in the countries will find it hard to concentrate on TPP issues, political analysts said.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday raised hopes that the 12 countries could conclude the sweeping free trade agreement “in the next several weeks” through another round of ministerial talks.

“The trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks. They have the opportunity to close the deal,” Mr Obama told a meeting with business leaders in Washington.

Mr Obama said he was “confident” that the member countries can get a TPP done this year.

Mr Obama’s administration has called the TPP deal a key element that embodies its policy of focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. A TPP would cover about 40 per cent of the global economy with the US and Japan accounting for about 80 per cent of gross domestic product in the TPP economies.

Ministers from the 12 countries failed to reach a broad agreement on the initiative during their talks in late July in Hawaii.

In response to TODAY’s queries, a Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry spokesman reiterated that despite the lack of a breakthrough in the Hawaii talks, negotiating countries had managed to “reach agreement on many issues that were previously intractable”.

“We are therefore optimistic that we are only a few steps away from the successful conclusion of the TPP negotiations,” the spokesman added.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said recently that it would take only one more ministerial meeting to conclude the TPP negotiations, but it remains uncertain whether some countries will be able to bridge the big gaps on issues such as how long new drug data should be protected.

The US, Japan, Canada and Mexico held a series of meetings on TPP-related issues such as automotive trade last week in Washington.

The four countries, however, failed to see a clear path to concluding the overall TPP talks anytime soon, according to Mr Takeo Mori, a senior Foreign Ministry official who represented Japan in the four-way meeting.

The original TPP negotiations were launched in 2010 involving the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Malaysia, Mexico, Canada and Japan joined the talks later. AGENCIES

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