US, Japan fail to seal trade pact in marathon talks

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TOKYO: US and Japanese officials failed to reach agreement in marathon bilateral trade talks in Tokyo, a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hopes of arriving for a summit in Washington next week with a pact in hand.

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US Trade Representative Michael Froman left Tokyo after negotiations concluded around 4 a.m. Tuesday, with differences remaining over auto and rice imports.

Froman had traveled to Japan on Sunday for two days of talks with Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari to help pave the way for a broader Asia- Pacific agreement involving 10 other nations.

The differences between the sides have “substantially narrowed,” Froman said before leaving the Japanese capital. The two sides have reached “stage nine out of 10” in the talks, Abe said in a television interview with BS-Fuji TV as the talks were ongoing late Monday.

The two sides have yet to overcome differences in a bilateral deal that is the backbone of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The delay in two partner’s bid to advance the TPP and remain a center of economic gravity in the region comes after China’s success in enhancing its own muscle in Asia by luring 57 countries to join its new regional development bank.

“They tried to spin it in a positive way, but what seems to be pretty clear is that there is no breakthrough,” said James Brown, an assistant professor for international affairs at Temple University in Tokyo. “On a foreign policy level, this is a major disappointment” ahead of Abe’s trip to the US that begins April 26.

TNS

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