The US and 13 Asian partner nations will fall short of announcing the completion of an economic accord at a regional summit in San Francisco led by President Joe Biden, as differences over trade linger after about a year of negotiations.
The countries have made progress on some so-called pillars of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, but trade — in particular rules for digital commerce and labor — has proved more difficult, according to people familiar with the process, who asked not to be identified without permission to speak publicly. Negotiations will likely continue in the months ahead, they added.
One of the people said that the administration had planned this week to announce completion of talks regarding some trade areas, including agriculture and competition.
The US Trade Representative's office declined to comment on Monday night.
Biden is hosting American partners at the the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, the first time that the gathering is taking place in the US since 2011. He also plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, their first encounter in a year.
The framework is Biden's way to counter China's growing influence and marks the most significant American economic engagement in the region since President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. It stops short, however, of reducing tariffs like a traditional free-trade agreement, which some countries have sought.
Yet the new initiative has run into some of the same problems and opposition as that earlier effort, known as the TPP.
One of the people said that Democratic senators who have been critical of past free-trade agreements like Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had made clear to the administration that they would only support the trade approach if it included strong labor and environmental protection, but those were not ready to be announced this week.
Both face re-election next year, but Brown will be running in a state that Trump won easily in 2016 and 2020.
Free trade agreements have proved divisive in the US ever since Bill Clinton agreed to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1993. Trump condemned the accord, saying it had cost hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing jobs and spent much of his administration renegotiating it.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai leads talks on the trade pillar. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been leading negotiations on two other IPEF pillars that are further along.
She also led negotiations on a supply-chain pillar that was completed earlier this year and intends to avoid the sort of disruptions that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Bloomberg, and is published by special syndication arrangement.