May 6, 2014 / 8:26 AM / 6 years ago

Japan, U.S. to seek early conclusion to Pacific trade talks: Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech at the Ministerial Meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Japan and the United States will work together to steer negotiations on a huge trans-Pacific trade pact towards a quick conclusion, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday.

Japan and the U.S. began edging last month into a new phase of negotiations on the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership to create one of the world’s biggest trade agreements.

Talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation bloc which would span 40 percent of the world economy and extend from Asia to Latin America, have in the past been deadlocked as the U.S. and Japan locked horns over farm and auto exports.

“Japan and the United States will act in cooperation to accelerate negotiations further towards the early conclusion of negotiations by the 12 participating countries as a whole,” Abe said in an address at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

Abe has touted trade deals with Europe and the United States as crucial for Japan. But he was unable to wrap up negotiations with Washington last month because of a pledge to protect Japan’s politically powerful farmers.

Abe, who was due to hold an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, was optimistic about free-trade talks for an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

“We will certainly be able to overcome small differences in our positions,” he said. “I believe that an EPA between Japan and the EU should be concluded at the earliest possible time.”

According to EU documents obtained by Reuters, the EU is set to tell Abe at the summit that Brussels is broadly satisfied with Japan’s progress in negotiations towards the deal, which is likely to enable talks to continue.

Doubtful of Tokyo’s willingness to bring down barriers to European exports, EU trade negotiators were told to pull the plug on the talks that began in April 2013 after a year if Japan did not show sufficient progress in areas from food to cars.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by James Regan and Hugh Lawson

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