U.S., Japan wrangle over details in pact

Next week’s meeting between President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a good opportunity to give impetus to Pacific trade negotiations but will not seal a deal, a senior U.S. administration official said Friday.

Talks between the United States and Japan seen as vital to a broader regional trade pact had narrowed to a few critical areas and will resume Monday, officials of both countries said, as negotiators hustle to prepare for Thursday’s summit.

Breaking a U.S.-Japan deadlock over access to Japan’s farm and auto markets is seen as key to finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade bloc that would stretch from Asia to Latin America.

The TPP is central to Obama’s policy of expanding the U.S. presence in Asia, and Abe has touted the bloc as a main element of his strategy to reform the world’s third-largest economy and generate sustainable growth.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari wound up a 20-hour negotiating session earlier Friday with major gaps still on display.

“We still have big differences,” Amari told reporters in Washington before he left for Tokyo, according to Kyodo news agency, although he said “the gaps are getting smaller.”

— Reuters

Judge: Airline can’t end retiree benefits

A federal judge has rejected an attempt by American Airlines to quickly cut off benefits for many of its retirees.

American wants retirees who wish to keep their benefits to pay all the cost. The dispute could go to negotiations or a trial.

On Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Sean Lane in New York rejected a request made by American’s former parent, AMR, for the right to immediately eliminate retiree benefits for former pilots, flight attendants and other union workers. Lane granted AMR’s request for a group of nonunion workers.

The company had 46,930 retirees when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

“American will review his ruling and consider next steps related to the retiree health and life insurance benefits,” American spokesman Casey Norton said in an e-mail.

Catherine Steege, a lawyer for the committee representing the retirees, said the ruling should cause American to stop trying to terminate the benefits.

AMR emerged from Chapter 11 protection last December as American Airlines Group after merging with US Airways.

— Associated Press

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