US hopes for draft Trans-Pacific Pact free-trade deal by November

Obama looking to have draft ready for talks with trade partners during Asia trip in November

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 5:10am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 5:10am

Pacific trading partners hope to have a free-trade agreement ready to present to the public and stakeholders in November, US President Barack Obama said.

He said the aim was to have a document to discuss with other leaders of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations when he travels to Asia in November, a trip that will include the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Australia on November 15 and 16. Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) leaders also meet that month.

Obama said he discussed the latest timeline for the deal with New Zealand's prime minister, John Key, in the Oval Office, and that he hoped to have a related "document" by the end of the year.

"My hope is that by the time we see each other again in November, when I travel to Asia, we have got something that we have consulted with Congress about, that the public can take a look at," Obama said, though he warned there was a lot of work still to be done on an agreement.

The United States holds mid-term elections on November 4, and many trade experts had despaired of finalising the TPP this year because of the risk it could cost Obama's Democrats votes at the polls, given the party's links to trade unions worried about the impact of trade agreements on jobs.

The White House had hoped to complete the TPP, part of Obama's strategic shift towards Asia, last year, but talks stalled over Japanese tariffs on agricultural imports. Tokyo wants to shield rice, wheat, dairy, sugar and beef and pork products, while Washington seeks to protect American carmakers against increased competition from their Japanese counterparts.

Participants reported new momentum after a US-Japan summit in April. A Mexican official said some countries were pushing to get an agreement in September at the latest, although other participants are less optimistic.

Key, who has said Japan should be cut out of the deal if it cannot make the necessary concessions, said he was confident of reaching a high-quality, comprehensive TPP.

"There's always a period of sort of arm-wrestling that goes on between the parties, and sometimes it always feels a bit darkest before the dawn," he said.

The other TPP members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Obama is due to travel to the Apec summit in Beijing, the East Asia Summit in Myanmar and the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia at the end of the year.

Chief negotiators from countries set to join the TPP are due to meet again next month.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse