Delays largely due to stalemates over tightly regulated food and agriculture exports.
BEIJING — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and 11 other world leaders said they’re inching ever closer to an agreement on the proposed Asia-Pacific trade deal as a crucial year-end deadline approaches.
On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, Harper sat down with US President Barack Obama and the leaders of the 10 other countries negotiating an agreement on the TransPacific Partnership.
The leaders said in a statement following the high-level meeting, held under tight security in an auditorium in the US embassy in Beijing, that the progress they’ve made in recent months “sets the stage to bring these landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to conclusion.”
The statement added they are “intensively engaging to complete ambitious and balanced packages to open our markets to one another.”
There have been dim hopes for a deal this year, largely due to a stalemate between the US and Japan over whether the Japanese will open their borders to farm exports.
Obama, nonetheless, played the role of cheerleader in remarks at the beginning of the TPP meeting, urging his fellow leaders to spur on an agreement.
“During the past few weeks, our teams have made good progress in resolving several outstanding issues regarding a potential agreement,” he said as Harper listened intently from across the room.
“Today is an opportunity at the political level for us to break some of the remaining log jams.”
The US has been pressuring Canada to open up its protected dairy and poultry sectors.
Harper and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the eve of the APEC summit. Japan issued a joint statement following their chat, saying the two leaders agreed on the “need to confirm the political determination to settle a deal.”
The TPP joint statement a day later suggested there’s been some success towards that goal.
“With the end coming into focus, we have instructed our ministers and negotiators to make concluding this agreement a top priority so that our businesses, workers, farmers, and consumers can start to reap the real and substantial benefits of the agreement as soon as possible.”
© 2014 The Canadian Press