By Rosalba O'Brien
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The conditions are now present to finalize a Pacific trade deal, although talks would likely still go down to the wire, Chile's head of international trade told Reuters on Thursday.
The United States has called negotiators from the 12 nations discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to a meeting in Atlanta next week in a bid to finish the pact that will cover 40 percent of the world economy.
Since a meeting in Hawaii in July failed to clinch a deal, the member countries had continued to hold discussions, said Andres Rebolledo, head of the Chilean foreign ministry's economic relations department.
In particular, delegates from Japan and North America had been working to make progress over a stumbling block on autos, he said.
"There were signs that the conditions were there to conclude negotiations, but you can never be sure of that because with talks you never know until the last minute if it is possible to find a balance or not," he said in a telephone interview.
Three major sticking points remain - autos, dairy trade, and monopoly periods for biologic drugs. The last is a sensitive one for Chile and the developing countries that are keen to hurry cheaper generic drugs to market.
Although only the three issues remained, they were equally tough ones to solve, Rebolledo said.
"All three are complicated and sensitive and all need to be resolved to really have a balanced deal," he said.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Andrew Hay)