BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: Negotiators from 12 countries concluded a week of talks in Brunei on a free-trade agreement on Friday, 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 yearend.
“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.
But a Malaysian official said that negotiators made little progress.
“I know it was a difficult round,” the senior Malaysian trade official told Agence France-Presse, providing no specifics.
The talks have been shrouded in secrecy through 19 rounds since 2010, hosted by the countries involved.
The TPP has stirred protests in various nations amid fears that it could leave domestic markets exposed to foreign competition.