The 21st round of talks toward a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement took place September 1–10 in Hanoi, with twelve Pacific Rim countries making progress on issues of state-owned enterprises, intellectual property, investment, rules of origin, transparency, anti-corruption, and labor. The parties continue to hone commitments for preferential access to each other's markets for goods, services/investment, financial services, and government procurement.
As diplomats in Hanoi worked with multiple partners, U.S. bilateral negotiations with Japan moved forward in a series of working-level meetings divided into issues of non-tariff barriers to motor vehicle trade and tariffs on agricultural goods. An automobile agreement would phase in reciprocal market access for U.S. and Japanese auto manufacturers over several decades, but the more contentious issue of agriculture tariffs has threatened to derail negotiations. Japan's farm minister stated that the United States must offer concessions to achieve any TPP agreement (detailed coverage of Japan's agricultural tariff positions can be found in the May 2014 issue). Automobiles account for as much as three-quarters of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan, but the Japanese agricultural sector has become vulnerable due to a smaller labor force and systemic inefficiencies. Japan entered negotiations for accession to the TPP during the 18th round of talks in July 2013, and the significance of the partnership as a whole hinges on the future of Japan's economic influence.
A meeting between Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman took place on September 23rd and 24th in Washington without a breakthrough, indicating stalled progress toward an unofficial deadline for bilateral understanding in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing on November 10 and 11 (information on previous rounds of talks can be found in the September 2013 issue).