CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A trans-Pacific free trade pact could be agreed upon early next year before U.S. presidential election politics get in the way, Australia's trade minister said Wednesday.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is aimed at cutting tariffs and setting trade rules, and is central to the Obama administration's attempt to boost American exports to Asia and re-orientate U.S. foreign policy toward a region of growing economic importance. The pact is seen as a precursor to a future wide free-trade arrangement for the entire Pacific Rim region.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb told a U.S. Studies Center conference in Canberra that there was no chance of an agreement being struck among the 12 nations this year.
"I think this year's out. I mean, we'll keep negotiating, there's quite a momentum I feel and we are .... over 80 percent of the way," Robb said.
Robb said the final stage of negotiations was the most difficult and important.
"With the political will, it could conclude fairly quickly," he said.
"The Republicans have said it will not get through this year; they've said to me privately and probably have been saying it publicly," he said. "In the first half of the year, there's a political opportunity in the U.S., potentially. And if they go after that, you start to run into the politics of the next presidential election."
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