Now that the U.S. Senate has given its approval to fast-track authority for the president to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, negotiators appeared set to tackle the pact's remaining major obstacle: intellectual property.
Top-level negotiators from 12 nations worked over the weekend in Guam to put the final touches on issues in other sectors of the TPP and get ready to break the IP stalemate in time to present an agreement to a ministry-level meeting that could be held as early as July.
Negotiators in Manila recently met to fashion a set of working briefs on IP issues for the July meeting.
A Japan government source cited by the Japan Times voiced doubt an agreement was imminent, given the width of the remaining gap between developed and emerging nations over the length of patent protections and clinical-trial data.
A TPP agreement would not affect just the 12 signatory nations, for together they represent 40% of the world's economy.
The Times cited a source as saying Australia sides with emerging markets in providing the strongest resistance to the United States and Japan that want to retain lengthy protection, the former 12 years for biopharmaceuticals and, in the latter's case, 8 years.
One proposal floated was for all parties to compromise by splitting the difference between 12-year protection and the 5 years insisted on by the Aussie-led emerging markets. The protection offered by Japan, at least the third largest economy, could be one possible compromise point.
Besides Australia, Japan and the United States, the TPP members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
- here's the story from Japan Times