Last chance for a deal as Pacific trade ministers meet again on Oct 4 after latest impasse

Japanese trade minister Akira Amari (centre) speaking to the media during a break in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Atlanta, Georgia on Oct 3, 2015.
Japanese trade minister Akira Amari (centre) speaking to the media during a break in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Atlanta, Georgia on Oct 3, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

ATLANTA (AFP) - Trade ministers of 12 Pacific Rim countries failed again to conclude a deal on a huge free-trade area and will meet one more time on Sunday (Oct 4) in hopes of reaching agreement.

The ministers began meeting late on Saturday with hopes of a breakthrough, but the talks in Atlanta broke up after only about 15 minutes, with little progress.

"The main issues are still biologics and the dairy trade, between the US and Canada and New Zealand. The automotive issues are mostly settled," said an Asian official after the meeting.

Officials said that Sunday will be the last chance for a deal during this round, with Japan's Economy Minister Akira Amari due back in Tokyo for a Cabinet reshuffle and others headed to Istanbul for a G-20 meeting on Monday.

The ministers have been meeting since Wednesday and have been stuck for most of the time on the same two problems: US demands for longer patent protections than generally accepted for biologics, medicines derived from living materials.

The other major sticking point is a push by New Zealand and the United States to open up the Canadian and Japanese markets to more imports of dairy products.