(Reuters) — Some Pacific trading partners are aiming for a deal on a regional free trade zone as early as the next few months, sources close to the negotiations have said.
However, others caution a pact is still a long way off and see the U.S. elections as a wild card.
Trade ministers from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries said after May meetings in Singapore that the talks had gained momentum and they would step up efforts over coming weeks.
TPP, which is a central element of U.S. president Barack Obama’s strategic shift toward Asia, would cut trade barriers and harmonize rules in a complex deal covering two-fifths of the world economy and a third of global trade.
Some officials close to the talks said they worried about a closing window of opportunity to finalize talks with U.S. mid-term elections in November.
A Mexican official said some were pushing to get an agreement in September at the latest.
“If we don’t make it during the summer, it will be difficult for the United States to persuade voters in the middle of the mid-term election campaign, so the aim of the members, particularly Japan, the United States and Mexico, is to seek an agreement towards the end of the (northern) summer,” he said.
Still, others took a more pessimistic view.
A diplomatic source from another TPP country, who is familiar with the negotiations, said he did not expect ministers to meet again in July or August.
“Until the (U.S. mid-term) election is over, there won’t be real enthusiasm for striking a deal,” he said, adding it would need “huge political investment” in Washington to get an agreement this year.