Ministers from the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are expected to wrap up their four-day meeting Tuesday without a full agreement, making it certain they will miss their end-of-year target for a deal.
The ministers are aiming to narrow differences as much as possible on their last day of talks in Singapore, although they have already agreed to carry over contentious topics such as tariffs and intellectual property rights to next year, a source close to the negotiations said.
The trade representatives are expected to release a statement later in the day.
The United States, the leading economy in the TPP, as well as Japan had been eager to close the nearly four years of negotiations by the end of December, but member countries failed to find political solutions to difficult issues, which also include state-owned firms and the environment.
The TPP pact, which was at first negotiated by eight countries, now has 12 members -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
If successfully concluded, it would encompass roughly 40 percent of world gross domestic product and one-third of world trade. It is also seen as having the political purpose of countering the growing influence of China.
South Korea is also considering joining the accord, but some worry that the members may lose momentum for striking a deal after missing the year-end deadline, given the difficulty of making concessions on all issues.
The latest TPP session comes after the World Trade Organization on Saturday reached agreement on some of the issues under the long-stalled Doha Round trade liberalization talks in Indonesia.