August 23, 2013
Representatives from countries negotiating a free trade pact that will cover nearly 40 percent of global economic output said Friday that differences between them persisted, as the US sought to assuage concerns over a looming year-end deadline.
Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific, Latin American and North American regions have been meeting since Thursday in the sultanate of Brunei to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is the 19th round of talks on the 12-nation deal.
In a joint statement, the ministers said they hoped to “offer guidance” and conclude the deal this year.
Doubts persist over whether the target can be met, with concerns from Malaysia over the impact state-owned enterprises and affirmative action.
Critics in Japan have also warned that Japanese demands for exceptions may present a sticking point.
The TPP member countries comprise Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Economic giant China is not a party to the negotiations.
US trade representative Michael Froman said Friday that the world’s largest economy would not force anyone to accept a deal until they are ready.
“First of all, there is no US template being imposed on any country. This is a negotiation of 12 sovereigns coming together to work together on a number of challenging issues,” he told a joint press conference at the end of the two-day ministerial meeting.