TOKYO Japanese and U.S. trade negotiators made progress on Wednesday in trade talks meant to spur a broader Pacific trade pact and prepare for a visit by President Barack Obama, but they remain apart on key issues, both sides said.
"I think we made some progress today and I'm looking forward to returning tomorrow to engage further," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters after a day of negotiations with Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari.
Amari said "debate has deepened considerably" in the talks, which focus on access to Japan's agricultural market and both countries' car markets. "But there's still considerable distance" between the two sides' positions, he added.
Tokyo and Washington are seeking a two-way trade deal, regarded as a key part of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is the centerpiece of Washington's push to increase its Asian presence, before Obama travels to Japan for an April 24-25 state visit.
But despite the Obama visit looming barely two weeks away, Froman echoed recent remarks by Japanese officials that they are not setting any deadlines in the bilateral talks.
(Reporting by Antoni Slowkowski; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Edmund Klamann)