[June 21, 2014]WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Pacific trading partners hope to have a free trade
agreement ready to present to the public and
stakeholders in November, U.S. President Barack Obama
said on Friday.
He said the aim was to have a document to discuss with other leaders
of Trans-Pacific Partnership nations when he travels to Asia in
November, a trip that will include the Group of 20 leaders meeting
in Australia on November 15-16. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) leaders also meet that month.
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 at the poll, given
the party's links to trade unions worried about the impact of trade
agreements on jobs.
Obama said he discussed a timeline to complete the deal this year
with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whose country is one of 11
others in the pact covering two-fifths of the world economy and a
third of global trade.
"Our hope is by the time we see each other again in November, when I
travel to Asia, we should have something that we have consulted with
Congress about, that the public can take a look at, and we can make
a forceful argument to go ahead and close the deal," he told
reporters after the meeting.
"But we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then."
The White House hoped to complete the TPP, part of Obama's strategic
shift toward 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 U.S. carmakers from increased Japanese competition.
But participants reported new momentum after a U.S.-Japan summit in
April. A Mexican official told Reuters some countries were pushing
to get an agreement in September at the latest, although other
participants are less optimistic.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who visited the United States
last week, was reported as saying on June 18 there was no chance of
a deal this year, though he hoped it could be concluded in the first
half of 2015.
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.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Krista Hughes; Editing by