WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urged Japan on Thursday to ramp up efforts on a Pacific trade pact ahead of planned talks with his Japanese counterpart next week.
A stand-off between the United States and Japan, the two biggest economies in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, over access to farm and auto markets has been blamed for slow progress in clinching the trade deal.
But U.S. President Barack Obama has set mid-November as a goal for having the outlines of an agreement, putting pressure on negotiators.
Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari is due to visit Washington next week for talks with Froman.
Froman said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had laid out a bold vision of how the TPP could help transform Japan’s economy by opening markets and supporting competition, but words had to be followed by action.
“We are now at a critical juncture in this negotiation, and we are working hard and well with Japan to achieve our shared objectives,” Froman said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a key pro-trade business group.
“Now is the time for that bold vision to be translated into concrete progress at the negotiating table.”
Japan wants to shield rice, wheat, dairy, sugar, beef and pork products from foreign competition, while the United States seeks to protect U.S. carmakers from increased Japanese competition and dismantle hurdles to selling U.S. vehicles in Japan.
The United States holds midterm elections on Nov. 4. Many trade experts had doubted the TPP could be finalized this year it could cost votes from Obama’s Democrats, given the party’s links to trade unions worried that the agreement would hurt jobs.
Froman said the end of the TPP talks, now in their fifth year, was in sight but it would take “a collective effort, and a willingness to stretch to achieve an agreement that is consistent with our high ambitions.”
Besides the United States and Japan, the other countries in the pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
(This story has been corrected to remove reference to next round of talks in first, fourth paragraphs)
Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn