Secrecy about trade negotiations between the United States and Japan is hampering progress on a broader Pacific trade pact, a senior Chilean official said on Friday.
Hopes of sealing a deal this year on the ambitious 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are looking dim, largely because of a deadlock between the pact's two biggest economies, the United States and Japan, over how widely Japan will open its doors to farm exports.
Other TPP members would like to know more about how those discussions are going, said Chile's head of international economic relations, Andres Rebolledo, who has overall responsibility for the trade talks.
"These bilateral negotiations take in two ... we don't know the detailed state of the talks between the U.S. and Japan, for example, and that has been one of the complications," he said.
Some TPP partners hope that whatever is agreed between the United States and Japan will serve as a blueprint for bilateral agreements with other countries. They hope the deal will act as a catalyst to resolve other tricky issues such as common standards on drug patents and worker protection.
Rebolledo said he was meeting U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman next week.
"I hope he will tell us a bit more about how their talks with Japan are going," he added.
Relatively small Chile, which is the only one of the group to have pre-existing bilateral trade deals with all the others, was focusing its efforts on Japan, where there are still issues over market access, he said.
Other sensitive issues for the country include intellectual property, investment services and labor, he said.
The White House has been pushing to conclude TPP talks - now in their fifth year - this year, although U.S. officials have said there is no particular deadline and the substance will dictate the timetable.
U.S. President Barack Obama indicated his interest to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet several weeks ago in having a draft of the agreement ready for November, Rebolledo said.
Besides Chile, the United States and Japan, the other countries in the pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.