Canada's Trudeau says still more work to be done on TPP

Canada's Trudeau says still more work to be done on TPP

Kerry Wise
November 13, 2017

Talks have resumed between Australian and 10 other countries for a Trans-Pacific Partnership after a last-minute no-show by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a key meeting threw the deal into doubt.

The Vietnamese trade minister says 11 Pacific Rim countries have reached a "fundamental agreement" on continuing with a free trade pact after the US abandoned it.

Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries announced an agreement Saturday on pushing ahead with a free-trade deal whose destiny was uncertain after President Donald Trump dropped it. The ministers also said they would work to improve the functioning of the World Trade Organisation - which Trump criticised in Friday's speech.

The 11 ministers "have agreed on every word and expression used in the ministerial statement" to be released Saturday, Motegi said.

Talks to revive the free trade deal appeared to have collapsed on Friday night when Trudeau failed to show up to a leaders' meeting, but Champagne blamed his absence on "a misunderstanding about the schedule".

Motegi, taking part in the Abe-Trudeau summit, said "no clear explanation" was offered as to why Canada can not support and announce the agreement at the leaders' level.

Canada's position has been further complicated by the fact that it is simultaneously renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the Trump administration.

It was the Canadian leader's first bilateral meeting on the margins of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit at a palm-lined, seaside resort in Vietnam.

Facing Canadian domestic political pressures similar to those faced by the New Zealand Labour-led government from the left of its support base, it appears Canada has pushed for the inclusion of the "comprehensive, progressive" wording to stress this is not an "old-style" agreement focused only on trade.

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"The primary reason is that Canada is in a hard situation trying to balance the interests of the TPP, which has Mexico as a party, but also keep alive the North American Free Trade Agreement", Professor Rothwell said.

At the start of the meeting, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang noted Apec's success in removing barriers to trade - as well as the new uncertainty in the world. Trudeau said days before arriving in Danang that he would not be rushed into signing an agreement that did not suit Canada's interests.

It said a "limited set of provisions" from the original deal would be suspended.

The U.S. president told an APEC business conference that "we are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore".

Zhang said the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact will not be impacted by TPP, to which China is not party.

More work needs to be done for the agreement to be endorsed by leaders of the member countries at some unspecified point in the future.

The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the US, the biggest economy and, before Trump took office, one of its most assertive supporters.

Mr Trump and the other 20 leaders of the APEC economies will on Saturday retreat into the Summit for private talks. The official disputes the notion it was a snub because the leaders would mingle at APEC events over the next 24 hours anyway.

"We're in an easier place to try things out, to test policy sensitivities even if we don't get everybody around the table", Bollard said.