September 25, 2014 / 1:24 AM / 5 years ago

Japan, U.S. remain apart in trade talks, dealing blow for TPP

Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari, who retained his post after a cabinet shuffle, arrives at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo September 3, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan and the United States failed to make progress in bilateral talks, both sides said on Wednesday, dealing a blow for hopes of sealing an ambitious multilateral trade deal this year.

“Japan made a flexible proposal, but we weren’t able to make further progress,” Trade Minister Akira Amari told reporters on Wednesday evening after two days of talks in Washington. “Further negotiations are undecided.”

Amari met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who last week urged Tokyo to ramp up efforts to break the standoff between the two biggest economies in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Froman’s office said the two sides had had “constructive working-level discussions over the weekend” but that the ministers “were unable to make further progress on the key outstanding issues” of car and farm trade.

“The United States continues to demonstrate a commitment to the level of ambition that all TPP countries agreed to attain when they entered negotiations,” the U.S. side said in a statement.

Participants in the TPP talks aim at a broad agreement by year-end to open up trade around the Pacific, although many observers remain sceptical that the group’s two biggest economies are willing to make the sacrifices needed for a deal.

Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Writing by William Mallard, editing by G Crosse & Shri Navaratnam

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