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Progress on TPP deal with U.S. but a gap remains: Japan official

By Jonathan Spicer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japan and the United States have made progress on a two-way trade deal but a gap remains and effort is needed to come to a final compromise, a top official in Japan's cabinet said on Wednesday.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice-minister of the Cabinet Office, told reporters in New York the two countries were in the "last stretch" of a deal vital to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation bloc that would extend from Asia to Latin America.

"I believe there was some progress" in talks last week, though "of course there still remains a gap and we have to make efforts to come to a compromise," he said through a translator, after presenting at a conference. "The last stretch is not going to be easy."

Nishimura, who is responsible for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic revival plan, said a deal on TTP was one of the pillars of its growth strategy. The growth plan, to be unveiled by the government in June, is the third of three so-called arrows after the Bank of Japan launched hyper-easy monetary policy and the government launched mass fiscal spending.

The vice-minister added that corporate governance would be an important part of the June plan.

Marathon talks during U.S. President Barack Obama's state visit to Tokyo last week yielded progress - hailed by the two sides as a "key milestone" - but stopped short of a TPP deal.

Negotiators from the 12 TPP countries are to meet in Vietnam in mid-May, followed by a gathering of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in China on May 17-18. Obama and Abe will likely meet next at an Asia-Pacific summit in China in November.

TPP "is equally important for the United States and "represents our common interests," Nishimura said. "We have to work together so we can reach some kind of compromise as early as possible. That requires efforts by both parties."

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by James Dalgleish and Chizu Nomiyama)

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