Pacific Rim officials meet in Hawaii this week for talks that could make or break an ambitious trade deal which aims to boost growth and set common standards across a dozen economies ranging from the United States to Brunei.
Trade ministers go into the talks, which run July 28-31 on the island of Maui, with high hopes of an agreement to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most sweeping trade deal in a generation and a legacy-defining achievement for U.S. President Barack Obama.
But the toughest issues have been left until last, including monopoly periods for new life-saving medicines and preferential treatment for state-owned companies as well as more traditional trade issues such as opening protected markets to competition.
"This meeting will be extremely important to decide the fate of the TPP negotiations," Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari told reporters on Friday.
"I believe all the nations will come to the meeting with their strong determination that it has to be the last one."
But Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast was more cautious, warning last week that there is a "lot of hard work to be done before this agreement is put to bed."
Canada's refusal so far to accept more dairy imports is a major sticking point in the talks, infuriating the United States as well as New Zealand, which has said it will not sign a deal that fails to open new dairy markets.