Pacific forum sticks to free-trade gospel despite Trump

Aaron Brown
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 substance is something all the TPP countries can agree on", said Motegi.

Canada and the 10 other Trans-Pacific Partnership countries reached an agreement on Friday on "core elements" of the free trade pact, pledging to adhere to strict labour and environment standards, hours after the talks almost collapsed earlier in the day.

"We have reached an agreement on a number of fundamental parts", Vietnam's trade minister, Tran Tuan Anh, told reporters in the coastal resort city of Danang, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

After U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the world's biggest economy from the TPP, Japan had been eager to clinch an accord at the APEC summit, with the remaining 11 signatories sharing the goal of an early implementation of the pact.

Japanese leaders want to shield its politically powerful agricultural sector from liberalization demands that are potentially harsher than those agreed under the TPP, but political analysts say the Trump administration is likely to step up calls for a bilateral free trade agreement, and the tough demands it will bring, regardless of the TPP's future.

"Through a pragmatic response of the officials involved we could come to an agreement", Motegi said. "Our continued involvement in the CPTPP is a testament of Malaysia's commitment to globalisation and multilateralism", Mustapa said.

"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.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is back on and this time it's got a new name.

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

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

But the official line, as espoused by Champagne, was that Trudeau missed the meeting because of a "misunderstanding" about the schedule.

Mr Trump and the other 20 leaders of the APEC economies will on Saturday retreat into the Summit for private talks.

"We have witnessed changes more rapid and complex than we expect", he said in opening remarks.

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.

"The scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Abe ... went long, we obviously had a lot to talk about, and at the end of the meeting it became clear it was in everyone's interest to postpone the meeting on TPP11", Trudeau said as an explanation.

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.

Apec trade and foreign ministers released a joint statement on Saturday, three days later than planned because of wrangling over customary language the United States wanted to change.

In their retreat, leaders were expected to discuss broader regional concerns such as North Korea's nuclear program and missile tests.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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