TOKYO, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Ministers have failed to meet a deadline to finalize negotiations on issues relating to the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks between 12 member countries, with Japan trying to hold on to tariffs in sensitive sectors being one of the reasons for the logjam, officials said here Tuesday.
Trade ministry officials said in Tokyo that their colleagues in Singapore over a four-day period had failed to reach an agreement, but progress towards making a final deal was getting closer, although the year-end target for finalizing the pact will likely be missed.
In a joint statement the ministers representing the 12 member countries including Japan said they will reconvene in a "flexible manner next month" and continue negotiations, while intimating the proceedings would continue into 2014.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman was quoted as saying at a local news conference that all member countries had found ways to move forward on most of the outstanding issues, and that overall the negotiations had taken a closer step towards the TPP trade pact being brought to fruition.
The U.S.-led TPP free trade pact negotiations have and continue to see Japan and the U.S. embroiled in a stalemate over Japan's sensitive agricultural sector, officials here said, as well as on matters of intellectual property and the automotive sector.
Akira Amari, Japan's minister in charge of the negotiations, recently remarked that there is virtually zero possibility that Japan will roll over on its sensitive farm tariffs, despite calls from most of the 11 other TPP member countries for it to do so.
The TPP, when negotiations have concluded, could potentially create a free trade bloc comprising some 40 percent of the global economy, according to leading economists.
But to expedite the process, pressure is mounting on Tokyo to make bigger concessions on sectors it's seeking to protect and other TPP member countries may jointly give Japan an ultimatum on the issue, although sources close to the matter said here Tuesday that the negotiations were not at the stage of majority votes and final demands yet, although said the possibility could exist in the near future if significant headway isn't made soon.
Japan has, since it entered the TPP talks, sought to protect its fragile rice industry, which sees tariffs of more than 700 percent imposed on foreign imports to protect the sector.
Along with its rice industry, Japan has also been looking to safeguard its wheat, beef, pork, dairy products and sugar industries, which has previously drawn the ire of other TPP member countries and led to these ongoing and protracted negotiations.
No agreement on TPP yet though ministers say progress made
SINGAPORE, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- The ministers and representatives of the 12 participating countries in the ambitious but controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday after four days of negotiations in Singapore.
But the ministers said in a joint statement that they made " substantial progress towards completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership". Full story