Countries involved in negotiations for an ambitious Pacific free trade agreement began talks in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, aiming to strike a deal in time for a ministerial meeting that Singapore has confirmed will be held in the city-state on May 19-20.
The fresh round of negotiations comes after Japan and the United States, the two biggest economies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, moved closer over bilateral contentious issues following a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama last month.
Over the next four days, the chief negotiators from the 12 TPP member nations will focus on resolving tough remaining issues such as tariffs, especially in areas including politically sensitive agricultural goods, intellectual property and reform of state-owned companies.
Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s top TPP negotiator, said bilateral negotiations over tariff removal will be the key to moving things forward at the meeting.
“I hope we will be able to see significant results that will lead to finalizing” a deal, Tsuruoka told reporters prior to the start of the meeting, noting that there has been major progress in Japan-U.S. bilateral talks recently.