AUSTRALIA and 11 other nations have failed to clinch an ambitious Pacific free trade deal, with medicines, cars and dairy emerging as key sticking points.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb had hoped to finally conclude the long-running Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations during marathon talks with his counterparts in Hawaii, but the talks soured in the final hours and delegates will now return to the table later in the year.
It is understood Mr Robb withstood enormous pressure – led by the United States – over biotech medicines. The Abbott government regards a US push to extend the patent period on biologics as a "red line", sources say.
It is understood Mr Robb also pushed hard for a better deal for sugar access into the US.
Disagreements between Mexico, the US and Japan over cars and between Canada, the US and Japan on dairy exports also emerged as key 11th-hour stumbling blocks.
In a statement, Mr Robb said significant gains had been made and none of the disagreements were insurmountable.
"We all went to Hawaii with the aim of concluding, and while we didn't quite get there we are definitely on the cusp. Most importantly, the resolve remains to get this done," he said.
"While nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, I would say we have taken provisional decisions on more than 90 per cent of issues."
Australia has made significant gains across every area including agricultural market access, he said.
The 11 other nations negotiating the TPP are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Together they account for 40 percent of global GDP. If a deal is finalised the TPP will be the biggest regional trade deal ever reached.
But there is significant opposition to the deal.
The Australian Greens spokesman for trade, Peter Whish-Wilson, said the failure should send a clear signal that the deal is not in Australia's interest and Mr Robb should walk away from the "dangerous" and "anti-democratic" talks.
"If Mr Robb doesn't accept the bleeding obvious and he chooses to continue talks on highly contentious issues, he must release the TPP text and let Parliament and the people know what is being negotiated," Senator Whish-Wilson said.
"Once the deal is signed, it cannot be changed or amended."
Some Nationals MPs have threatened to cross the floor in Parliament and vote against the deal if it does not contain enough gains for Australian sugar farmers.
However, the National Farmers Federation on Saturday reiterated its support.
"The NFF remains a firm supporter of the TPP as a key platform to drive increased trade and investment. A good agreement will provide significantly improved opportunities for Australian farmers to sell products to markets we know are demanding high quality food and fibre," it said in a statement.
The Abbott government believes a finalised deal would bring "enormous benefits", saying new levels of market access and a more seamless regional trading environment would deliver jobs, growth and higher living standards for Australians.