Pacific nations agree on 'core elements' of new TPP trade deal

Countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) have agreed on steps to move ahead with the trade deal despite resistance from Canada at talks in Vietnam that had put new doubts over its survival, officials said.

They say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's absence from Friday's meeting was due to scheduling problems.

Reuters is reporting this morning that the 11 nations working on the new version of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact have agreed to the core elements of a deal but more work needs to be done. "They said they had gained consent from the top leader".

The 11 ministers "have agreed on every word and expression used in the ministerial statement" to be released Saturday, Motegi said. The compromise was delayed by last-minute disagreements that prevented the TPP leaders from meeting to endorse a plan on Friday.

Ministerial talks on a communique for the APEC leaders were extended into a second day on Thursday in the face of USA demands for changes to the language used concerning issues such as free trade and protectionism, officials at the talks said.

"This is subtly sending a message to the U.S. that Canada is not going to be agreeable to reaching any trade deal and Canada will be making its own tough negotiating stance".

Discussions would not continue without Canada, she said.

The talks were a corollary to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit underway in Vietnam.

Indeed, since his arrival in Vietnam, Trudeau has said he wouldn't cave to "pressure" from others, telegraphing that Canada did not have its pen in hand heading into Danang, the site of the APEC conference. "So it's time for the Trudeau government to stand up for Canadians and stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership".

"The "just about" could be important; there are four provisions of the TPP which are suspended".

Partly to counter China's growing dominance in Asia, Japan had been lobbying hard for the TPP pact, which aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across the 11-nation bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion past year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says talks have effectively collapsed in Vietnam.

Nafta talks with the United States were not affecting Canada's stance on TPP negotiations, he said.

What is especially troubling is that Trudeau said the government would take its time to get the deal right, but now it appears that he was pressured into accepting a deal at any cost. Chinese President Xi Jinping drew loud applause during a speech to the same group when he urged support for the "multilateral trading regime" and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific. Under the original TPP, in order for a vehicle to enter Canada tariff-free, 45 per cent of it must have originated in a TPP member nation (auto parts themselves must have a regional content value of 35 to 45 per cent).

Trade ministers reconvened overnight while APEC leaders attended the traditional leaders' banquet, where Ardern said she exchanged pleasantries with Trump, including a "standard" handshake, a reference to the president's penchant for extended gripping with counterparts. It cut into the planned TPP leaders' meeting and kept the other leaders waiting for them in the room.

On Sunday, Trudeau will attend the ASEAN summit of 10 Southeast Asian leaders in Manila, hosted by President Rodgrigo Duterte, who has faced harsh global criticism for his human rights record.

Junichi Sugawara, a trade policy expert at the Mizuho Research Institute, said, "Realistically speaking, I think it will be quite hard for Japan to fend off requests to start negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement, although it depends on how hard the United States pushes".

  • Rogelio Becker