March 16, 2015 / 10:31 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. Senate's Hatch says making progress on fast-track trade talks

(Adds quotes from Hatch, Wyden and a Japanese official, details; in paragraphs 5-10)

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican, said on Monday he is making progress with his Democratic colleagues on a bill to streamline the passage of free-trade deals through Congress.

“We’re making headway,” Hatch told reporters. “I have high hopes that we will get there. I chatted with the president (Barack Obama) today. He said it’s very important to him and he wants me to get it through.”

Hatch has been negotiating with the panel’s top Democrat, Ron Wyden, and the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan.

Fast-track legislation is seen as key to sealing a 12-nation Pacific trade pact.

Hatch said Wyden, who is pushing for a mechanism to strip unsatisfactory deals of their special status, wanted some concessions Republicans balked at.

“We have given quite a bit on changes to senator Wyden and we have reached a point where there isn’t much more we can give,” he said.

Wyden said he did not want to negotiate in public.

The delay in agreeing on legislation is blamed by some for pushing back the timetable on the 12-nation Trans-pacific Partnership.

Chief negotiators wrapped up talks in Hawaii on Sunday without setting a date for ministers to meet and take the tough political decisions needed to close the deal.

“There are still issues that have big gaps among member nations, so working-level or chief negotiator-level talks will be needed before moving on to ministerial-level talks,” a Japanese official told reporters in Tokyo. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Sandra Maler, Bill Trott and Mohammad Zargham)

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