Leaders eye final Trans-Pacific deal in 2012

Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:30pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis and Emily Kaiser

HONOLULU (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and eight other leaders said on Saturday they have made good progress on a groundbreaking pan-Pacific trade deal and expected to finish in 2012.

"Our nine nations have reached the broad outlines of an agreement," Obama said after leaders of countries in the proposed Transpacific Partnership pact, or TPP, met at the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

"There are still plenty of details to work out but we are confident that we can do so. So we've directed our teams to finalize this agreement in the coming year. It is an ambitious goal but we are optimistic that we can get it done."

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak went further, even though a joint TPP leaders' statement had no specific target date.

"We've reached broad agreement that July should be our deadline," Najib told reporters.

With Europe mired in crisis, the Obama administration sees the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region as key to boosting exports and creating jobs to bring down high U.S. unemployment.

The TPP talks got a jolt of excitement on Friday when Japan, the world's third-largest economy, announced its interest in joining the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile and Peru in the pact.

The deal, with Japan included, would create a regional economic group about 40 percent larger than the 27-nation European Union. Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and South Korea are seen as potential TPP participants.   Continued...