TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman are due to meet next week in Washington for talks on a bilateral deal that is crucial to clinching a broader multilateral Pacific rim trade pact.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations hoped to have a free trade agreement ready in time for his trip to Asia in mid-November. But with time running out, the outlook is murky.
“We are in the final stages of preparing for a visit by Minister Amari next week to Washington,” a spokesman for Froman’s office said in an email.
“Minister Amari will meet with Ambassador Froman and address remaining issues in our bilateral TPP negotiations.”
The White House had hoped to complete the TPP, part of Obama’s strategic shift toward Asia, last year, but talks stalled in part over Japanese tariffs on agricultural imports.
Japan wants to shield rice, wheat, dairy, sugar and beef and pork products, while the United States seeks to protect U.S. carmakers from increased Japanese competition.
The United States holds mid-term elections on Nov. 4, and many trade experts had despaired of finalizing the TPP this year because of the risk that it could cost Obama’s Democrats votes, given the party’s links to trade unions worried about the impact of trade agreements on jobs.
Reporting by Krista Hughes in Washington; Writing by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birsel