WH, Japan leaders reach 'breakthrough' on trade

Senior U.S. administration officials said Friday they had reached a "breakthrough" with Japanese officials to resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which had stalled in recent years because of growing opposition from lawmakers and other groups. 

As President Obama made his way from Japan to South Korea on Friday, a senior administration official said the so-called breakthrough came on the tail end of "a very important couple of days" for the trade pact, which would expand trade from the Pacific Rim to Latin America.


"What we were to do this week, which we've been trying to do for quite some time, is really to identify a pathway to resolve the major market-access issues, which are agriculture and autos," the senior official said, according to a White House pool report. 

The official said Obama's involvement on the trade pact with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave the negotiations a boost. "What we achieved here this week is a key milestone in that regard," the official said. "It will not add additional momentum to the overall TPP negotiations." 

Six agriculture sectors — including beef, pork, dairy, wheat, sugar and rice — were the focus of the negotiations, and the senior official said that progress was made in each area. 

"We took the talks to a new level," the official said. "In a number of the products, we were able to identify what the path is going to be to ultimate resolution." The official said a series of tradeoffs and "parameters" lie ahead in the negotiating process. 

"There are still negotiations to be had," the official said. "There are details to be worked out and some products are further along than others. So there is still work to be done, and we're going to continue that work. But we both felt ... that on the basis of what we accomplished this week, we have a breakthrough." 

The official added, "there still are negotiations to be done" in an "ongoing process." 

Still, "this is a key milestone," the official said.