The latest round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among 12 Asia-Pacific countries wrapped up this week in Vietnam.  While U.S. negotiators said progress was made, others question whether the Obama administration’s unofficial goal of concluding a deal by the end of 2014 can be met.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said the ten days of negotiations in Hanoi made “important progress across a range of issues.”  Negotiations also “successfully resolved many issues and narrowed gaps in other areas,” USTR said and “continued to move forward with their work to construct ambitious packages for preferential access to each other’s markets.”  USTR added that participants “share a commitment to resolve the remaining issues as quickly as possible” and that toward this end USTR Michael Froman “will work bilaterally with many of his TPP counterparts in the coming weeks.”  No date or location has yet been set for the next round of talks.

One of the key factors to the success of the TPP negotiations is the ability of the United States and Japan to reach a bilateral agreement on lowering Japan’s barriers to agricultural goods and automobiles.  The press is reporting that the two sides have made little progress on these highly sensitive issues following negotiations this month.   Japanese officials said that the agricultural talks “were not able to make as much progress as we hade expected” and that “considerable gaps” remain.