Chief negotiators in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks have met in the Canadian capital of Ottawa in a bid to resolve differences on tariffs, intellectual property rights and other sticking points.
Delegates from Japan, the United States, and 10 other countries gathered on Saturday for the first of 8 days of negotiations.
They will discuss the removal of tariffs, and the drafting of rules to protect intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical patents and other items. They will also review preferential treatment for state-owned firms.
Japan's chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka said the meeting will determine whether the parties can reach a deal before the end of the year.
He said the Japanese government wants to wrap things up as soon as possible for the sake of its economy.
Tsuruoka warned that it will be a challenge to overcome major disagreements between the parties.
Negotiators are trying to resolve as many differences as possible around the table. They agree that issues requiring political decisions should be left to ministers.
Jul. 5, 2014 - Updated 20:31 UTC