Obama, Japan PM discuss TPP trade deal, Ebola by phone-Jiji

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TOKYO (Oct 15): U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed stalled trade talks and the Ebola virus epidemic in a telephone conversation on Wednesday morning Tokyo time, Jiji news agency reported.

A Japanese official had earlier confirmed that the two leaders would talk by phone.

The latest outbreak of Ebola, which causes fever and bleeding, has already killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in West Africa, and global concern is growing about the virus spreading.

Obama was set to hold a video conference on Wednesday with British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss Ebola and other international issues, the White House said.

Japan has had no Ebola cases, while in the United States, a Liberian man died from the disease and a nurse who contracted it from him was said to be "in good condition" on Tuesday.

U.S.-Japan trade talks, vital to concluding a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, stalled at talks in Washington last month, with each side blaming the other for a stalemate over tariffs on farm products.

Obama has said he hoped to have a TPP deal by year-end but many experts are sceptical whether the group's two biggest economies can make necessary compromises. Other TPP partners are reluctant to commit to final offers until they see how the two resolve their differences.

Japan wants to protect sensitive goods, including beef, pork, rice and dairy, which are important to its farming sector. But with U.S. midterm elections looming, many U.S. farmers and lawmakers have warned against a deal that does not significantly open Japan's markets.