26 February 2014
SINGAPORE — Negotiators from the U.S. and 11 other nations in the Asian-Pacific region failed to sign a free-trade pact, but said they are moving toward a deal.
The negotiators wrapped up a meeting in Singapore on Tuesday to work out details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement.
The talks, which the U.S. views as a way of extending its economic clout in Asia, were supposed to conclude last year. But a number of sticking points, especially between the U.S. and Japan about agriculture and autos, meant that deadline was unachievable. Officials said they made significant progress in the talks that began at the weekend, but didn’t set a deadline for reaching an agreement. “We made further strides toward a final agreement,” the ministers said in a joint statement, while acknowledging that “some issues remain.”
The failure to reach at least the broad outlines of an agreement surprised some analysts who had expected a deal to emerge from the Singapore talks. “Most of what’s left are politically sensitive issues. If ministers meeting for four days cannot agree on the political issues, it’s disappointing,” said Deborah Elms, head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
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