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No prospect for Pacific free trade pact agreement at APEC: US

Kyodo | October 31, 2014

No prospect for Pacific free trade pact agreement at APEC: U.S.

U.S. trade chief Michael Froman said Thursday there is no prospect of clinching an agreement on a contentious Pacific free trade initiative at the upcoming summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

"We do not expect to have a final agreement on TPP at APEC" in Beijing, Froman told an event in Washington, referring to negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal involving the United States and 11 other countries.

He said the Nov. 10-11 APEC summit will be a good opportunity for the leaders of the TPP negotiating countries to "have conversations with each other about the TPP, about whatever outstanding issues are left and to give more political impetus to getting it done."

But the U.S. trade representative did not mention any time frame for concluding the U.S.-led trade talks, which have failed to make tangible progress due mainly to gulfs between the United States and Japan over auto and farm trade issues.

The United States and all of the 11 other countries involved in TPP talks — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — are among the 21 members of APEC.

Froman and his counterparts from the 11 countries, accounting for roughly 40 percent of world gross domestic product, held a ministerial-level meeting on the TPP on Saturday through Monday in Sydney but failed to strike a deal for quick conclusion of the initiative.

The TPP countries plan to hold another round of ministerial talks on Nov. 8 on the sidelines of APEC events but it is unknown yet whether the 12 countries will hold a leaders’ meeting in the Chinese capital.

Froman kept silent about the schedule for possible deliberations in Congress after Tuesday’s midterm elections on a bill that would give the president fast-track authority to promote talks on the TPP.

"We’ll leave it to Congress" hoping to see bipartisan support, Froman told a separate event Thursday on the possibility of debating a bill for Trade Promotion Authority before the new legislators’ terms formally begin in January.

The legislation would allow the president to present a deal to Congress that it can only endorse or reject without amendment.

The 12 countries are trying to conclude the TPP talks after missing their primary deadline at the end of last year.

 source: Kyodo