The U.S. ambassador to Singapore expressed confidence on Wednesday that negotiators will resolve their differences and eventually forge a far-reaching Asia-Pacific trade pact.
U.S. Ambassador Kirk Wagar said the 12 nations involved in the ongoing talks are aiming to quickly wrap up work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
"It’s safe to say that everyone’s committed to getting it done as quickly as possible."
The next round of high-level ministerial talks are set for Feb. 22-25 in Singapore to further work toward completing the deal.
Negotiators failed to meet a year-end goal of resolving a broad range of complex issues, which include intellectual property, state-owned enterprises and tariffs.
While the trade deal is concentrated in the Pacific Rim, it stretches around the world from Mexico to Australia and Japan to Peru.
“I don’t think it surprised me that many entities coming together trying to get to a final deal, that at the end part, it takes a while to get it completely right. That speaks of the value of the agreement, not any impediment.”
The trade deal is being pushed by President Obama but faces Democratic and Republican opposition in Congress.
Notably, many Democrats are expressing concerns about granting the White House expanded trade powers that would make it easier to get an agreement through Congress.
Advocates argue that trade promotion authority (TPA) is a much-needed part of the trade picture and would help convince other nations to get on board because Congress will eventually approve the agreement they ink.
TPA, also known as fast-track, would give Congress and up-or-down vote on any agreement that reaches Capitol Hill.
The AFL-CIO is soliciting signatures for a petition in opposition of the TPP and TPA, arguing that they are bad for working people because they lead to fewer U.S. jobs and lower wages.
The U.S. and Japan also have a parallel TPP negotiation. Trade officials are pressing for Tokyo to lower its barriers to a wide range of imports, including autos and agricultural products.
But many lawmakers doubt that Japan will be willing to make the changes needed to satisfy them.
The 12 nations seeking a pact are the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.