Japan says Pacific trade talks agree broadly on labor, health issues

OTTAWA/TOKYO Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:30am EDT

Japan's Foreign Ministry's official Koji Tsuruoka (R) attends the 17th North East Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Tokyo April 10, 2006.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Japan's Foreign Ministry's official Koji Tsuruoka (R) attends the 17th North East Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Tokyo April 10, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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OTTAWA/TOKYO (Reuters) - Pacific trade talks have reached broad agreement on labor issues and sanitary and phytosanitary standards but some difficult aspects remain to be tackled, Japan’s chief negotiator said on Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said last month he aimed to have a free-trade draft he could take to meetings with other leaders in November.

Chief Japanese negotiator Koji Tsuruoka said the 12 member nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) made progress at talks in Ottawa but there was no discussion about the timing of the overall accord in the regional free trade agreement.

"We came to Ottawa so that we would clarify what issues are left (after TPP talks in Ottawa) and find out the direction. We achieved the desired goal," he told a news conference.

But gaps remain to be bridged and further talks are required on issues such as intellectual property, state-owned companies and the environment, he said.

The meeting in Ottawa would be key to advancing the trade pact talks to their final stage by the end of the year, he had said last week.

But Tsuruoka said the countries felt the situation was not yet ripe to set the timing for a ministerial meeting as talks among officials had not made sufficient progress by the end on Saturday of the talks in Ottawa, which ran about a week.

The TPP talks also include countries such as Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast told reporters on Friday he would not put a timeline on when the TPP talks will conclude.

"We are bringing all of our efforts to bear to bring these negotiations forward in a timely manner," he said.

Asked to comment on New Zealand's suggestion that Japan should be eliminated from the TPP if it doesn't open its markets to more farm imports, he replied:

"I'm not going to comment on what other TPP partners say. All of them are valuable partners; they all bring value to the table."

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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