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Japan’s Interest Won’t Slow Pacific Trade Talks, Froman Says

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s administration won’t let Japan’s interest in joining Pacific trade talks slow progress made with eight other nations, Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser, said.

“We’re not going to slow down the negotiations for the accession process” to accommodate new nations, Froman said today in a Washington speech. “We’re not going to rush the negotiations to meet an artificial deadline. Our objective is to make as much progress” as possible toward completing an agreement this year, he said.

Obama is pursuing a deal with eight Pacific nations that would be the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico that took effect in 1994.

The talks include Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore, which have separate free-trade agreements with the U.S., as well as Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei. Japan, Canada and Mexico have expressed interest in joining. If they do, it would be the largest free-trade deal ever for the U.S.

While the U.S. Trade Representative’s office welcomes Japan’s interest, the administration needs to consult with lawmakers and interest groups to determine whether Japan’s commitment is strong enough to merit joining discussions, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said last month at a House Ways and Means committee trade panel hearing in Washington.

Froman said the Obama administration has no timeline for asking Congress to renew trade-agreement negotiating authority. Fast-track authority, a legislative guarantee that bans amendments, limits debate and ensures an up-or-down vote on trade deals, expired after Democrats won control of Congress under President George W. Bush in 2007.

The U.S. has no additional bilateral trade talks with individual Asian nations on its agenda, Froman said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Washington at emartin21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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