Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - Page 13 News List

No US-Japan deal during Abe’s visit: White House

FAST TRACK:The administration welcomed growing momentum on Capitol Hill for legislation that would accelerate passage of trade deals with other nations


The White House on Friday dashed hopes of a breakthrough on US-Japan trade when US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet in Washington this coming week, further delaying a major 12-nation Pacific trade pact.

“We’re not there yet,” US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Caroline Atkinson said.

A deal between Japan and the US is vital to clinching a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, as their economies account for 80 percent of the group. Obama also sees the TPP, which would cover a third of world trade, as an important counterweight to China’s growing clout in the region.

Atkinson said substantial progress had been made in intense high-level negotiations in Tokyo this week, but more work was needed, especially on the thorny issues of autos and agriculture.

“We expect the leaders ... to have the opportunity to discuss what should be the next steps together, but we do not expect any announcement of a final deal,” she told reporters in a conference call previewing Tuesday’s White House summit.

At the same time, White House officials welcomed momentum on Capitol Hill for legislation to speed such trade deals through US Congress, despite resistance from some of Obama’s fellow Democrats who worry that trade accords hurt US jobs.

So-called “fast track” authority to speed such trade deals through Congress is the other missing link for the TPP. Although legislation cleared congressional panels this week, it is not expected to come for a full vote until early next month.

Trade ministers from the 12 countries in the proposed pact are due to meet late next month.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said at a conference that negotiators were working to resolve sticking points so that the handful of remaining issues needing political decisions could be “teed up” for ministers.

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