The chances of a final agreement on a Pacific trade pact being reached have been put at 50-50.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb remains in back-to-back meetings in the US on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, with biologic drugs still the main sticking point.
The issue has pitted the United States, which has argued for longer protections, against Australia and five other delegations who say such measures would strain national healthcare budgets and keep life-saving medicines from patients who cannot afford them.
The terms of that compromise, hammered out after a third all-night round of negotiations between Australia and the United States, still had to find support from other nations such as Chile and Peru as of Sunday afternoon, people involved in the talks said.
The United States has 12 years of exclusivity for the clinical data used in developing drugs like cancer therapy Avastin, developed by Genentech, a division of Roche in order to encourage innovation. Australia insisted on five years of protection to bring down drug prices more quickly.
The two-track compromise would set a minimum threshold of five years during which drug makers would have exclusive rights to clinical data behind new drugs while adding an additional protection of several more years as applications for competing drugs are reviewed, people involved said.
It’s understood Australia has made some progress on market access for agriculture and seafood, with those on the ground putting chances of an imminent conclusion at 50-50.