Japan and the U.S. have made headway in trade discussions, but they haven't achieved the deal they were hoping to seal at a bilateral summit, Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said Friday, Reuters reported.
"This time we can't say there's a basic agreement," Amari told reporters after a second day talks failed to settle differences over cars and farm products.
However, Amari said, "Overall, the gaps are steadily narrowing" between the two sides, which did not issue the customary joint statement after Thursday's summit between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan considers the meeting was an "important juncture" for a bilateral deal, which would in turn be important to a delayed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
TPP is high on Abe's economic agenda and central to President Barack Obama's policy of expanding the United State's presence in Asia. Obama concludes his three-day Japan visit Friday morning before traveling to South Korea.
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The trade pact is a key priority for the Obama administration, but progress has stalled after 20 rounds of negotiations over the years haven't led to a consensus, CNN Money reported.
The most recent snags are over Japan's efforts to protect agricultural products including beef, rice, sugar and pork, CNN Money said, and added that protecting U.S. automakers from Japanese competitors is important to Washington.
Advisers from both nations were in the process of negotiating prior to Obama's trip to Japan. Analysts suggested that if meaningful progress were made, details would be announced at Thursday's joint press conference.
No revelations materialized, though, leaving Abe and Obama to say that the initiative is still a priority and that more negotiations are to come.
"We are closer to agreement on issues like automobiles and agriculture," Obama said, according to CNN Money. "Now is the time for bold steps that are needed to reach a comprehensive agreement, and I continue to believe we can get this done."