Japan hails progress in TPP trade talks, but discord raises doubts

Posted November 13, 2017

Reuters said Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Friday that countries including Canada had now agreed on a plan to move ahead with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not show up for talks between the remaining 11 nations in the TPP.

Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries announced an agreement on pushing ahead with a free-trade deal whose destiny was uncertain after Trump dropped it. "The 11 countries led by Japan, we are trying to come up with our new version", Najib said.

Australian National University professor Donald Rothwell, speaking to The New Daily from Canada, said he believed domestic politics and aspects of the TPP relating to cultural issues had driven Canada's position. After some disagreements between the two during the tête-à-tête, Abe told the other waiting leaders that the meeting was off, and Trudeau went on to meet with Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg.

"We obviously had lots to talk about and at the end of that meeting it became clear that it was in everyone's interest to postpone the leaders' meeting on the TPP11", Trudeau said.

Trump criticized multilateral free trade agreements like the TPP, saying in a speech Friday, "What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible".

Mr Turnbull said he later had a "very good and frank discussion" with Mr Trudeau during which he stood up for Australia's interests.

The heads of the 11 countries that have been negotiating a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership had planned to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' summit in Danang, Vietnam.

Abe said Canada "was not at a stage to confirm the agreement" reached at the ministerial level, a Kyodo report said.

But negotiators from all countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Canada, held further talks on Friday night.

The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion previous year.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at a press conference in Vietnam that Mr Trudeau would have to be the one to answer as to why he pulled out of a meeting to revive the TPP11.

"The suspended provisions, in fact, will help narrow TPP challenges for the country", Thang said.

"It's hard to say what position Canada will take from here".

There was no immediate word on Canada's stance.

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. 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).

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

As an institution, apart from its pageantry and its tradition of drawing leaders together for face-to-face meetings, APEC mainly serves as a laboratory for trying out policies and encouraging "best practices", said Alan Bollard, executive director for APEC's secretariat.