Failure to conclude a deal on a Trans-Pacific Partnership would make it more hard for President Barack Obama to achieve one of his top second-term goals, even if negotiations resume later this summer.
The TPP is the most ambitious trade deal in decades, a vast free-trade bloc encompassing 40% of the world’s economy and part of Obama’s much-vaunted “rebalance” towards Asia in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
An announcement on the deal is scheduled for late Friday evening.
“We have made significant progress and will continue to work on resolving a limited number of remaining issues, paving the way for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations”, Mr Froman told reporters.
Pharmaceutical patents tend to run five years, but pharmaceutical firms – many of them US-headquartered – have been pushing for an extension to 12 years, with negotiations understood to have centred on pulling that back to perhaps seven years.
New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser, speaking at the same media call, said he was “extremely confident we will find that sweet spot” where countries resisting opening their markets to competitive dairy trade would be won over. Trade ministers were keen to talk up the positives. Ministers were to reconvene again soon, the statement said, but like Froman gave no timeframe.
He says some issues are bilateral in nature, and some will involve groups. The other countries involved are Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
US Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat who attended the talks being held on the island of Maui, said expectations may have been too high given the technical disputes remaining when the meeting began on July 28. The recently passed trade promotion authority bill requires the president to notify Congress 90 days before signing a trade agreement.
United States trade representative ambassador Michael Froman said that, despite a final deal, the delegates had “more than a week of productive meetings”.
Both chambers have to accept the deal for TPP to go into effect.