Trade ministers working to finalize the text of a massive trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have decided to extend their talks in Atlanta, Georgia, into Friday.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman and his counterparts working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been meeting since Wednesday in Atlanta. The meeting was preceded by several days of meetings between TPP chief negotiators, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
Neither Froman nor his office has issued an update on the progress of the talks, but people monitoring the USTR had confirmed the talks would be extended into Friday.
Among the reported sticking points are Mexico’s continued hard line on automotive rules of origin. Significant gaps remain on dairy market access and the monopoly period for biologic drugs.
The last session of high-level talks on creating the mega trade zone among the 12 countries ended two months ago without agreement.
When that round of meetings on the Hawaiian island of Maui broke off, it dealt a setback to US President Barack Obama’s trade agenda. The meeting had been meant to complete the ambitious free trade accord.
Negotiators said then they had made significant progress, but work would continue on resolving “a limited number of remaining issues.”
The current ministerial-level meeting in Atlanta was confirmed a week ago by the USTR after sufficient progress on automotive rules of origin had been achieved by the US, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
The US-led initiative, which Obama hopes to make one of his signature achievements, would encompass 35 per cent of global international trade and help to tilt the economic balance of power in the region away from China.
The Pacific Rim countries involved in the negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
The United States and European Union are negotiating a seperate trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which would create the world’s largest free trade zone.