Japan, U.S. trade chiefs to meet Sat. over TPP

Japanese and U.S. trade chiefs are planning to meet Saturday in Washington to seek progress in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks ahead of a TPP ministerial conference slated for later in February, negotiation sources said Thursday.

Akira Amari, Japan's minister in charge of the TPP, will visit the United States and hold talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, aiming to break an impasse over contentious Japan-U.S. issues that have hampered broader negotiations, the sources said.

Tokyo and Washington have been at odds over how to deal with tariffs on key farm products Japan wants to retain, while the U.S.-led TPP aims for abolition of all tariffs. Auto trade is also one of the sticking points.

Amari has reiterated that the key to successfully concluding the negotiations at an early date is whether Japan and the United States, the two biggest economies in the TPP, can overcome differences in outstanding issues.

Twelve Pacific Rim countries will hold a ministerial meeting in Singapore on Feb. 22-25.