Ministers from the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks wrapped up a four-day meeting Tuesday without a full agreement, but said they have made "substantial progress" toward hammering out a deal.
Missing the end-of-year target for an accord, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said at a press conference that the negotiating members will meet again "next month" and will continue "intensive work" toward sealing the pact.
Japan and the United States, which have been in bitter conflict over thorny issues including Japanese tariffs on farm products as well as auto trade, failed to fill the gaps during the key session in Singapore, hampering the whole negotiation.
Apart from tariff issues, the trade representatives from TPP member states have also agreed to carry over to next year discussion on other remaining issues such as intellectual property rights and reform of state-owned firms, as developed and developing economies remained apart over those issues, a negotiation source said.
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, the pact 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.