U.S. rules out major Trans-Pacific trade announcement at APEC

Sun Nov 9, 2014 4:20am EST
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - There will be no "major announcement" on a Washington-backed Asia-Pacific free trade deal during a meeting of leaders from the region in Beijing this week, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Sunday.

Few expected that a deal on the ambitious 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be reached this year, largely because of a deadlock between the pact's two biggest economies, the United States and Japan, over how widely Japan will open its doors to farm exports.

Business leaders, however, have been looking for indications of momentum on TPP talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum which runs through Tuesday.

"There certainly will not be a final agreement, an agreement, a major announcement," Froman told reporters during an APEC briefing when asked about the TPP talks.

"This is an opportunity when we have leaders altogether in one place for them to take stock of where they are and give political impetus to complete the rest of the negotiations."

The United States insists that Japan lower barriers to agricultural imports, but Tokyo wants to protect sensitive products including pork, beef, dairy and sugar.

Some TPP partners hope that whatever is agreed between the United States and Japan will serve as a blueprint for bilateral agreements with other countries.

China is pushing for a separate trade liberalization framework called the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) at APEC, but some see a proposed study on the plan as a way to divert attention from the TPP, which excludes China.   Continued...

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) has a drink as U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (R) looks on at the start of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit ministerial meetings at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) in Beijing, November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Greg Baker/Pool