(Adds quotes from senior U.S. official in paragraphs 5-6,
WASHINGTON May 13 Pacific trading partners are
not expecting to reach a final agreement on an ambitious free
trade pact at a ministerial meeting in Singapore next week, a
senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.
A U.S.-Japan summit last month had shaken the two countries
free of a stalemate over access to Japan's farm and auto markets
in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but more work was
needed before a broad agreement could be reached, the official
The deadlock between Japan and the United States, the
biggest economies in the 12-nation TPP, has held up progress on
the wider trade agreement in recent months as other countries
awaited the outcome of the negotiations.
TPP negotiators, from countries including Canada, Australia,
Mexico and Malaysia, are in Vietnam this week for another round
of negotiations and ministers will meet on May 19-20 in
"We will make sure we are on the same page and then give
instructions to our teams to get back to work and work through
the remaining issues," the senior official said.
"This is a check-in meeting. This is not a ministerial where
we expect to reach a final agreement."
The senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said
the next stage of TPP negotiations involved other countries also
sitting down to work out market access issues with Japan.
Once it was clear what each country could get from the deal
in terms of exports, it would be time to focus on setting common
rules on issues such as labor, the environment and intellectual
property, he said at a briefing for journalists.
The U.S. official also urged China to show leadership on an
agreement to eliminate duties on billions of dollars of
technology products, which will be under discussion at a meeting
of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in China this weekend.
The United States, China, the European Union and nearly two
dozen other countries are negotiating an expansion of the World
Trade Organization's Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a
16-year-old pact that eliminated duties on a long list of
products including personal computers, laptops and telephones.
The United States and Europe have blamed China, the world's
biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing the technology
talks by asking for too many exemptions from the deal.
A positive attitude from China toward the ITA could help
convince critics of the merits of a bilateral investment treaty
(BIT) with the United States.
"If you are China and you are interested in having a
bilateral investment treaty, you want to have strong
constituencies of support, and a positive outcome on ITA is a
potential positive contributor to that outcome," the official
But there was still a long way to go on the investment
treaty negotiations, given China's list of sectors it wanted to
be exempt. "Right now the negative list is enormous and they
know that it's got to be shrunk to be meaningful," he said.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie