The official statement at the end of President Obama's summit meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed there was a "milestone" in the talks but did not elaborate.
"Today, we have identified a path forward on important bilateral TPP issues. This marks a key milestone in the TPP negotiations and will inject fresh momentum into the broader talks. We now call upon all TPP partners to move as soon as possible to take the necessary steps to conclude the agreement. Even with this step forward, there is still much work to be done to conclude TPP," the statement said.
For Abe, it will be politically difficult to fully open Japanese beef and rice markets to U.S. competition. The Japanese have a deep cultural attachment to a type of small-scale family farming that could be seriously affected by competition from U.S. agribusiness.
In the U.S., opposition to TPP is mostly found in the Democratic Party, where some members worry about a flood of new Japanese autos as well as low cost goods from Vietnam, which is a party to the TPP talks, as well as provisions that could give foreign investors new ways around U.S. regulations.
Both trade deals represent one of the few areas where Obama has a strong chance of getting legislation through Congress in his second term, given the likely support of most Republicans and many Democrats. The trade pacts are also key to Obama's National Export Initiative.
The TPP talks began during the George W. Bush administration. The participants include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
— This story was last updated at 1:11 p.m.