Pacific Trade Ministers Agree TPP-Replacement Deal Without US

Sergio Conner
November 13, 2017

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said no reason was given for Canada not attending the meeting and she did not know what their possible objections might be, although she indicated they might have some domestic conerns.

The negotiations are being held in Danang, Vietnam, alongside meetings of the 21-member APEC's annual summit, where Trump's markedly different stance from past USA leaders was being felt even before his arrival Friday in the coastal resort city.

"While we understand difficult negotiations on a number of sensitive issues remain, we are optimistic that with good will and hard work trade negotiators will bridge the remaining gaps so that high-value Canadian agri-food exporters, including Canadian Spirits manufacturers, will soon be able to benefit from important new market access opportunities", said Jan Westcott, President & CEO of Spirits Canada.

The meeting room where TPP-11 leaders were due to discuss the future of the trade pact.

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

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It was their first meeting since a crackdown by security forces that began in late August and has forced more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims into exile in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Trump's dramatically different stances from his predecessor, Barack Obama - such as his "America First" trade strategy and his skepticism over climate change - were apparent in Danang.

However, despite the Japanese minister's statement, a difference of opinion emerged over the current status of the renegotiations, with Canada's trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne saying in a Twitter post that "despite the information circulating, there is no agreement in principle on the TPP". Chinese President Xi Jinping used the same forum to stress multilateralism and said globalisation was an irreversible trend.

"We have no update on when they are likely to reconvene but it is clear that one of the partners in TPP-11 has withdrawn at this point from the negotiations, at least that is what we seem to be left with the impression of". He said all trade arrangements in the region should promote openness and inclusiveness, with no "exclusive clubs". The two trade deals are not mutually exclusive, and some countries would be members of both. 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.

"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. The statement still refers to free and open trade, but it also refers to fair trade and to members "improving adherence to rules agreed upon". The ministers also said they would work to improve the functioning of the World Trade Organisation - which Trump criticised in Friday's speech.

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