OTTAWA Current trade talks in Ottawa between Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific rim countries are key to advancing the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to its final stage by year-end, Japan's chief negotiator said on Saturday.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on June 20 his aim was to have a free-trade draft he could take to meetings with other leaders in November, and Japanese negotiator Koji Tsuruoka also referred to a late-2014 goal.
"I understand that this meeting in Ottawa will be a very important step to bring the TPP to the final stage towards the end of the year," Tsuruoka told reporters in Japanese in Ottawa.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in global talks at the World Trade Organization, the 12 Pacific countries involved are trying to come up with a regional pact, one which nonetheless could still get bogged down over issues like Japanese farm tariffs.
Tsuruoka said the United States and Japan made "huge progress" on auto and agricultural trade issues when Obama visited Tokyo in April, and they would continue negotiations after the multilateral TPP session in Ottawa wraps up on July 12.
He said it was "a little too high a goal" to hope the Ottawa talks would solve all the TPP issues remaining.
Besides the United States and Japan, the other countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
(Reporting by Randall Palmer and Hiro Kogure)