Leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks said significant progress has been made and the 12 countries are "on track" to complete the negotiations by the end of this year.
According to a joint statement from countries' leaders released by the White House, negotiators have agreed to proceed to "resolve all outstanding issues with the objective of completing this year a comprehensive and balanced, regional agreement that achieves the goals we established in Honolulu in 2011, ensures the benefits of the agreement are fully shared, and takes into account the diversity of our levels of development."
The end of the year continues to be the goal, but most of the sensitive areas have not been finalized. Reports indicate U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said there is "much focus right now and momentum behind us," he was quoted as saying in The Hill.
The latest TPP Ministers’ and Leaders’ meetings took place on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Bali, Indonesia, in early October. On Saturday, September 21, 2013, chief negotiators concluded four days of meetings where they met with the negotiating groups covering market access for goods and government procurement, which also worked to advance ambitious packages on goods, including industrial goods, agricultural products, and textiles, as well as government procurement.
TPP brings together advanced and emerging economies that make up a third of global trade and 40% of global gross domestic product. The 12 participating countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.
U.S. agricultural groups continue to call for an "ambitious, 21st century" trade agreement which would eliminate tariffs and remove trade barriers.
As the fourth-largest U.S. agricultural export market, with nearly $14 billion in purchases in 2012, Japan's inclusion in the talks is one of the most lucrative for America's farmers and ranchers.
"We see the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with its high ambition and pioneering standards for new trade disciplines, as a model for future trade agreements and a promising pathway to our APEC goal of building a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific," the leaders' statement said.
The statement added, "As we work to conclude these negotiations, we will further intensify consultations with stakeholders to craft a final agreement that appropriately addresses the interests of our citizens."
Senior trade officials and those involved in the talks counter that although the timeline calls for completion by the end of the year, leaders will not sacrifice the overall goals of the deal.
“As discussions enter their end game, we strongly urge the negotiators to hold fast to the goal of making the agreement a ‘model of ambition’ to address traditional trade issues, as well as the challenges of 21st-century commerce, without short circuiting our ambitious objectives for the sake of expediency,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and chief executive officer Thomas Donohue.