- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2013

The Obama administration is close to completing a major trade agreement with a handful of Asian countries, including Japan.

The office of the United States Trade Representative reported “significant progress” was made on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during meetings last week in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The trade agreement, which links the economies of more than a dozen Asian and western nations that account for 40 percent of the world’s GDP, was slated to be completed by the end of the year, but Japan’s late entry into the talks raised doubts that a deal would be reached in time.

The USTR laid rest to those concerns in an announcement late Sunday.

“This evening, chief negotiators for the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries have reported significant progress after six days of intensive meetings in Salt Lake City, Utah,” the USTR said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Negotiators still have a few issues to work out at their next meeting in Singapore, from Dec. 7-10, but they seem much closer to striking an 11th hour deal by the end of the year.

“Discussions among TPP negotiators will continue in the coming days to further set the stage for a productive meeting among the TPP ministers in early December,” USTR said.

Negotiators were able to reach agreements on a broad range of issues, including intellectual property, 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, according to USTR.

“The work of the chief negotiators this week has significantly narrowed the number of issues to be addressed directly by the TPP ministers at their upcoming meeting in Singapore,” USTR reported.

• Tim Devaney can be reached at tdevaney@washingtontimes.com.

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