The chief negotiators from the 11 remaining signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact on Monday started three-day talks near Tokyo, seeking an agreement next week on its implementation without the United States.
While they aim to reach a deal after rounds of talks in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held from Nov. 10 in Vietnam, concern has emerged following the recent change of government in New Zealand, with its new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggesting her administration would seek to renegotiate the pact.
Ardern, who took office last week, has said she is prepared to pull New Zealand out of the treaty if the 10 other member countries refuse to renegotiate in view of her Labour Party’s policy to ban foreign investors from buying existing homes in her country.
The envisioned ban could infringe on liberalization of investment that has been agreed on under the TPP. The regional trade pact was signed in February 2016 by the 11 countries and the United States, which withdrew from it following the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January this year.
Before the change of government, New Zealand, along with Japan, had been a major promoter of reviving the deal after the U.S. pullout.
On Monday, the 11 countries’ chief negotiators gathered in Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture to make progress on reaching a consensus on which clauses to suspend implementing until Washington returns to the deal.
Host country Japan aims to make minimal changes to the pact to keep its “high-level standard,” in the hope the United States will eventually return to the pact.
Currently, there have been requests to freeze implementation of 50 clauses, centering on those introduced at the request of the United States, a Japanese negotiation source said.
Vietnam is unsatisfied with rules of origin that restrict the scope of apparel products subject to tariff cuts and elimination, which it agreed on in return for access to a large U.S. market, the source said.
The 11 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. With the United States, the Pacific Rim trade pact covered around 40 percent of the global economy.