By Vicki Needham - 11/25/13 10:04 AM EST
U.S. trade officials said they made substantial progress last week on forging an Asia-Pacific agreement with an aim to wrap up a deal by the end of the year.
Top negotiators for the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations said late Sunday that there was "significant progress" after six days of intensive meetings in Salt Lake City.
The TPP negotiators said they resolved a substantial number of outstanding issues: intellectual property, cross-border trade in services, temporary entry, environment, market access, state-owned enterprises, investment, financial services, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, government procurement, labor, e-commerce, legal issues, technical barriers to trade and rules of origin, the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) office said in a statement.
That means, the USTR said, that the chief negotiators have significantly narrowed the number of issues to be addressed directly by the TPP ministers at their upcoming meeting in Singapore.
Discussions among TPP negotiators will continue in the coming days to further to prepare for the Dec. 7-10 Singapore meetings.
U.S. leaders, including President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, have reiterated their intention of trying to reach an agreement by the end of the year.
But Froman has said recently that he is not willing to sacrifice the quality of the trade deal to meet the deadline.
Meanwhile, a growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are setting up roadblocks for any potential deal.
A House and Senate majority want currency manipulation provisions included in the trade deal, while another group of House Democrats and Republicans are opposing trade promotion authority, which is designed to smooth trade agreements through Congress without amendments.
So far, currency provisions have not been part of the talks, which are bogged down by a slew of other complex issues.
Lawmakers also are concerned about what they argue is a lack of transparency about the contents of a deal and the negotiating points.
Senate Finance, and House Ways and Means committee leaders have said they are working on a bill and, according to trade sources, a TPA measure could be ready for introduction by the end of the year.