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Canada proposes holding TPP 11 ministerial at WTO ministerial meeting in December

  • November 29, 2017
  • , Sankei , p. 11
  • JMH Translation

It was learned on Nov. 28 that Canada has proposed a ministerial meeting of the TPP 11 be held on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization (WTO) official ministerial conference to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 10-13. Japan is strongly opposed to holding the ministerial out of concern that Canada may bring up pending issues again in an effort to render the basic TPP agreement ineffective.


Four issues, including Canada’s request for “cultural exception” – a proposal to allow restrictions on foreign investments as an exception for the purpose of protecting national culture – were carried over for further discussion under the basic agreement reached at the ministerial meeting held in Vietnam earlier this month. However, since the provisions of the new TPP agreement were practically decided, the remaining issues are supposed to be up to the requesting nations to coordinate separately with other countries.


The basic agreement means that a political decision has been made on the pending issues, so Japan’s position is that “the next ministerial meeting will be the signing ceremony,” according to a source close to the negotiations. Therefore, it will not agree to holding a ministerial in Buenos Aires.


At the news conference held after the basic agreement was reached, however, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that “important work remains to be done to ensure we reach the best deal for Canada and the Canadian people.” If Canada’s proposal is not accepted, it is ready to boycott the signing ceremony. It is reckoned that holding a ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires is meant to demonstrate that pending political issues remain unresolved.


While the “cultural exception” proposal is expected to be rejected due to strong opposition from the other TPP nations, it is highly possible that Canada will resist in an attempt to gain as much as possible by taking a hard line. Furthermore, it may revive past issues, such as Japan’s demand for the revision of safety standards for autos.


Canada is trying to defer a TPP agreement out of its concern that this might undermine its position in the NAFTA renegotiations. While the ministerial meeting is unlikely to be held without the participation of Japan, which has led the TPP discussions so far, Canada is expected to lobby for majority support through separate talks with the ministers of the TPP nations.


Discord among the TPP 11 will make it difficult for the agreement to be signed in early 2018, as envisioned by Japan.

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