ATLANTA — Negotiators are closing in on a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement after clearing a major logjam on automobiles.
Details have filtered out to stakeholder groups gathered in Atlanta for negotiations toward a 12-country trade pact.
The agreement will likely allow more foreign car parts than under the North American Free Trade Agreement but will be more complex, to make accommodations for different domestic producers.
International Trade Minister Ed Fast confirmed he was optimistic the issue could be solved.
But he said talks were ongoing and he wouldn't confirm details but would only agree to a deal that ensures the long-term viability of Canada's auto sector.
He also appeared to confirm that dairy remains a late obstacle to an agreement: "There's still lots of work to be done."
Canada is expected to open up the highly sheltered sector to more imports, but has balked at the amounts proposed by other countries.
The Canadian government faces domestic pressure at the Atlanta meeting: representatives from dairy-producing provinces, who are not at the negotiating table. They are there pushing against any opening to foreign milk and cheese.
Fast says he's met with 20 Canadian stakeholder groups, and has met with those provincial ministers in Atlanta.
Canada isn't the only country with domestic pressure: the U.S. side has received a public letter from influential lawmakers urging it to walk away unless it can secure certain gains for American businesses.
One official from the biggest U.S. business lobby present at the talks, however, said it's urgent to get a deal now - because she said failure in Atlanta could permanently doom the decade-long initiative.
Canada's election is only the first of several over the coming year that could play havoc with attempts to ratify a deal.
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