TPP Nations Seeking To Conclude Pact By Year-End

Wrapping up ministerial talks Friday, the 12 nations currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed to step up efforts toward hammering out the free trade pact within the year. The participating trade ministers, in a joint statement adopted at the end of their meeting, referred to the latest round of TPP talks as "helping drive the negotiations to conclusion on the 2013 time frame." A summit meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in October will be an "important milestone as the 12 countries work intensively to conclude this landmark agreement," the statement said. To set the stage for the October summit, the TPP ministers will meet again in September. The ministers also agreed to give more power to working-level officials assigned to the TPP negotiations. The joint statement cited seven key outstanding issues, including market access, intellectual property and government procurement. It also listed labor and dispute settlement as areas requiring further discussion.