TPPA in reach, says Obama
US President Barack Obama has expressed optimism that a vast Pacific trade deal can be reached before the end of the year, despite remaining disputes over key sectors.
Discussing a 12-country pact that brings together large and growing economies as diverse as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Japan and Vietnam, Obama told business leaders: "I have confidence we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year."
"Trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks, they have the opportunity to close the deal," Obama said on Wednesday (local time).
"Most chapters have been completed at this point," he said, adding that the deal would "make sure that we have a level playing field for businesses and American workers in the fastest growing region of the world."
The negotiations have been complicated by elections in Canada on October 19 and a change of Prime Minister from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull in Australia.
Already eight years in the making, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) would be a huge bloc encompassing 40 percent of global trade and part of Obama's much-vaunted "pivot" towards Asia in the face of an increasingly assertive China, which is not included.
The failure by trade ministers to wrap up the accord in August in Hawaii was a blow to Obama - who faces opposition to the deal from fellow Democrats - as it could see the TPP become campaign fodder ahead of November 2016 elections.
Differences over access to agricultural markets, dairy, the auto trade and protection for drug-makers are among the outstanding issues.