TPP ministerial session set to end without final agreement

Ministers from the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are set 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 TPP members are expected to issue a statement later in the day possibly mentioning a partial agreement, while they are now considering holding another gathering in January, officials engaged in the talks said.

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 discussion on other remaining issues such as intellectual property rights and reform of state-owned firms to next year, as developed and developing economies remained apart over those issues, a negotiation source said.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister of Japan's Cabinet Office, told reporters earlier Tuesday the ministers only had "a limited time" and it seemed very difficult to solve all the issues.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will brief the press later Tuesday and other ministers may also hold a press conference after the conference.

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.