RPT-After election, pressure grows on Obama in Asia-Pacific trade talks

Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:59am EST
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* U.S. business hopes for significant progress in December

* U.S. losing market share in fast-growing region

* Asia-Pacific middle class seen more than tripling by 2020

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - U.S.-led talks on a free-trade pact in the Asia-Pacific region are entering a potential make-or-break stage, putting pressure on President Barack Obama and other leaders to sacrifice sensitive domestic interests for a big deal to boost growth.

The 11 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, talks meet next week in Auckland, New Zealand, for the 15th round since negotiations were launched in March 2010.

With Obama now re-elected, U.S. negotiators have more freedom to deal with demands for the United States to open its sugar, dairy, clothing, footwear and other markets to more imports without worrying about hurting the president at the polls.

"I think the feeling (among TPP countries) was that the United States was negotiating in good faith ... but everyone knew that it wasn't getting done before the election," said Ernest Bower, director of Southeast Asia studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.   Continued...