TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Friday it would be difficult to reach an agreement in two-way trade talks between Japan and the United States unless U.S. lawmakers fast-tracked trade promotion legislation.
The two countries have been working toward an agreement over access to agriculture and auto markets and a bilateral deal between them is considered key to a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.
A delay in agreeing on the legislation in the United States to streamline the passage of trade deals, known as trade promotion authority (TPA), through Congress is blamed for pushing back the timetable on the TPP.
"Not only Japan but also other member nations share a view that TPA is an essential condition for the TPP agreement. I would like President Obama to make the utmost effort," Amari told a news conference.
"It is very high hurdle to reach an agreement to Japan-the U.S. trade talks unless we see clarity on the prospect for TPA bill."
Amari said this week that he wanted to reach a broad agreement on the two-way trade talks before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's expected visit to the United States from late April to early May.
A source familiar with Japan's stance on TPP told Reuters he did not know if the two allies could clinch an agreement before Abe's visit, primarily because of a lack of clarity on the outlook for TPA.
"I know there are issues pending and I know the solutions are not easy," he said.
"It's certainly doable but I don't know if the U.S. is prepared."
Another source said talks on the TPP were unlikely to gather momentum if prospects for the passage of TPA remained unclear.
"It will certainly be good if we can reach an agreement when leaders from the two nations are to meet," he said.
"But is there any definite reason that we have to reach an agreement in a situation where both the prospect for TPA bill and TPP talks are uncertain?"
New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser told Reuters in an interview this week that passing legislation to grant TPA was "crucial" and certain countries would not close the deal with out it.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Linda Sieg and Takashi Umekawa; Editing by Robert Birsel)