U.S. Hasn’t Decided on Expanding Pacific Talks, Obama Aide Says

The Obama administration hasn’t made a decision about adding Japan, Mexico and Canada to a Pacific-region trade accord being negotiated by nine nations, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama said.

It’s “too early to tell” whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership should expand, Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said today at a conference in Washington. “We’re proceeding down three parallel paths with them.”

The Pacific agreement, a trade priority for Obama, includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam. Japan, Mexico, and Canada have expressed interest in joining, and individual governments are bilateral talks with the three nations.

The trade-talk partners want to make sure new entrants are committed to the same goals and don’t want to renegotiate settled issues, Froman said.

The U.S. is discussing separate agreements with Japan, Mexico and Canada, Froman said.

“I don’t think there’s any particular reason we have to hold up one or two if the third one is going to take a bit more time,” he said. “We don’t have to address that question yet. It’s hypothetical.”

Negotiators met this week during a meeting of trade ministers in Kazan, Russia. Talks on the nine-nation deal will resume in San Diego starting July 2.

Mexico hopes to win approval to participate in the talks before President Felipe Calderon leaves office Dec. 1, said Arturo Sarukhan, the nation’s ambassador to the U.S., told reporters today in Washington.

“It’s not only about the U.S.,” he said. “It’s about nine core countries that have to bless the TPP process.”