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November 20, 2012

Leaders aim to complete Asia-Pacific trade deal in 2013

World leaders are aiming to complete an Asia-Pacific trade agreement within the next year. 

President Obama, who is wrapping up a three-country swing to Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, met with leaders from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries and concluded that the trade deal should be done in 2013, according to several news reports. 

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday that the aim is October 2013 for the 11 countries involved in the ongoing negotiations of the trade deal to complete an agreement. 

With global growth slowing, there is newly found momentum to complete the TPP, Gillard said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia after meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

After the meetings, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the TPP leaders agreed that it might take a full summit "to shove it over the line," The New Zealand Herald reported. 

Key said Obama was "totally committed" to try to get a deal next year.

As part of the East Asia Summit, Obama met with Key and Gillard, as well as leaders from TPP nations Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia. The other nations include Chile, Peru, Canada and Mexico. Mexico and Canada officially were granted seats at the table this fall. 

Meanwhile, Thailand showed interest in joining the talks, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Sunday.

Obama also met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Cambodia on Tuesday but nothing was settled regarding Tokyo joining the TPP talks. Noda may lose his seat in upcoming elections next month. 

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Obama and Noda discussed Japan joining the TPP and they "agreed to continue negotiations toward an achievement of that goal, which we believe would strengthen the TPP and be good for both Japan and the United States," according to news reports. 

He called the meeting "a good and friendly discussion between the two leaders."

U.S. automakers, as well as some lawmakers, are opposing Japan's membership until it agrees to significantly expand its auto market to imports. 

The 15th round of TPP negotiations will be held in Auckland, New Zealand from Dec. 3-12.