UPDATE 1-Pacific free trade deal seen in first quarter of 2015 - Chile

Fri Dec 5, 2014 5:19pm EST
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(Adds details on outstanding issues, comment from U.S. lawmaker and USTR)

SANTIAGO Dec 5 (Reuters) - A deal on an ambitious 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade pact should be finalized in the first quarter of 2015, a senior Chilean official told Reuters on Friday.

The planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has faced stumbling blocks, largely because of wrangling between the pact's two biggest economies, the United States and Japan, over agricultural tariffs.

But there was a lot of pressure from the United States to close a deal, said Chile's head of international economic relations, Andres Rebolledo, on the sidelines of an International Monetary Fund regional conference in Santiago.

"We are in the final stretch," said Rebolledo, who has overall responsibility for the trade talks in Chile.

A meeting of TPP chief negotiators is due to take place in Washington next week.

U.S. Representative Sander Levin, the senior Democrat on the congressional committee with jurisdiction over trade, said there was still a long list of "major issues" outstanding in the TPP, which includes developing nations such as Vietnam and Malaysia as well as developed economies like Canada and Japan.

Workers' rights, access to medicines in developing countries and the phase-out period for U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars were among issues still to be resolved, he said, calling for Congress to have more input into the deal.

A spokesman for the U.S. trade representative said the administration had held more than 1,500 meetings with members of Congress on TPP, including sharing negotiating text, and would continue to consult closely.

TPP negotiations made significant progress at a meeting in Australia in October but there was still a gap between Japan and the United States over market access and other hurdles, trade representatives said at the time.

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Additional reporting by Krista Hughes in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)