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Trans-Pacific Partnership: Everything open, nothing closed

Staff writer |
Negotiators from 12 Pacific countries concluded a week of talks in Brunei on a free-trade agreement but announced no breakthroughs in discussions that one official called difficult.

The effort pushed by US President Barack Obama to create an Asia-Pacific free-trade area covering nearly 40 percent of global economic output has run into turbulence amid protectionist reflexes, casting doubt on hopes of concluding the pact by year-end.

"Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators intensified their work this week to close gaps between them... to discuss possible landing zones on remaining sensitive and challenging issues," a joint statement said, giving no substantive details.

The TPP has stirred protests in various nations amid fears it could leave domestic markets exposed to foreign competition. Powerful agriculture lobbies in Japan are resisting the TPP and concerns have been raised that Japanese demands for exceptions may present a sticking point. Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed last week said his country had "serious difficulties" with the potential impact on state-owned firms.

"There was no sector that did not make any progress. On the other hand, there was no sector that has been resolved and completed," said Koji Tsuruoka, Japan's chief TPP negotiator.

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