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11 TPP states on verge of accord on implementing deal without U.S.

  • November 9, 2017
  • , Kyodo News , 3:13 p.m.
  • English Press

DANANG, Vietnam — Ministers of the 11 signatories remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership scrutinized Thursday a draft of a new agreement as they stand on the verge of a broad accord to implement the free trade deal without the United States.


The ministers, meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the central Vietnamese city of Danang, seek to clinch the agreement in time for their leaders’ summit Friday.


U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the world’s largest economy from the pact in January had thrown the deal into disarray, but the remaining members decided to revive the pact in the hope that Washington will return to it in the future.


Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Tran Tuan Anh, said at the outset of the meeting open to the media, “parties have reached consensus on some difficult issues, creating necessary conditions for the final package” toward an agreement.


Japan’s minister in charge of TPP, Toshimitsu Motegi, who is chairing the meeting with Anh, said, “We have collectively reached a stage where we can discuss proposals for the final package for an agreement in principle of the TPP 11.”


“I would like to emphasize once again the importance of reaching an agreement in principle right here,” Motegi 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. The deal was signed in February 2016 by the 11 countries and the United States.


In coming to the broad agreement, the 11 states still need to reach a consensus on which clauses in the original TPP agreement to suspend.


They have agreed not to make amendments to the original text but freeze implementation of some clauses, in particular those included at the United States’ request.


Japan wants to minimize such freezes to maintain the high level of market liberalization.


In Thursday’s ministerial meeting, a draft of the agreement that Japan has prepared will be the basis of discussions, with a focus on sensitive issues that require political decisions.


A Japanese negotiation source said as officials scrambled to set the stage for the leaders’ agreement, the members have come to show flexibility and discussions are moving toward a wrap-up.


Some countries remain cautious. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that “Canada will not be rushed into a deal that is not in the best interest of Canada and of Canadians,” according to Reuters news agency.


Mexico and Canada have called for suspension of clauses regarding intellectual property, while Vietnam is pushing for a review of a rule that cuts or eliminates tariffs on apparel products, the country’s major exporting goods.


A change of government in New Zealand has also stoked fears that it may review its preceding administration’s stance that strongly advocated for TPP.


New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters acknowledged during talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Wednesday that the topic is “super sensitive” with the installation of the new government and the new coalition.


Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal after taking office in January this year, saying Americans would lose jobs if the country joins the multilateral free trade deal and that he prefers pursuing bilateral trade agreements.


The pullout came as a shock to the other 11 members, given that the Pacific Rim deal was a landmark pillar of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s policy of a strategic rebalance, or “pivot,” to the Asia-Pacific region and had significance not only economically but in security aspects, amid the rise of China.

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