WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Hopes ran high that an agreement would be reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a ministerial meeting in Hawaii, but negotiators for the 12 TPP countries adjourned  on July 31 with major issues outstanding and the way forward uncertain, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on Aug. 6.

A joint statement from the involved trade ministers professed optimism, claiming that significant progress had been made and pledging that work would continue. Among the unresolved matters, however, are tough issues such as market access for automobiles and dairy products, as well as the data exclusivity period for biologic drugs, a key intellectual property question.

“The failure to achieve an agreement last week is a concern because the political clock is ticking,” said Floyd Gaibler, USGC director of trade policy and biotechnology. “The Canadian election campaign is already under way, and the United States will be in full campaign mode by the beginning of next year.

“Given the mandatory time periods for public and Congressional review, it will now be very difficult for Congress to vote this year on a TPP deal, even if the remaining issues are settled quickly. Meanwhile, the politics of ratification get more polarized and more gridlocked every day as the elections draw nearer.”

No date has yet been set for a resumption of TPP talks, though the pending agreement is likely to be top of mind at another ministerial meeting planned later this month in connection with the Aug. 22-25 meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur.