TOKYO — The chief negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership aim Tuesday to agree to sign a new pact without the United States by March, but Canada’s reluctance about an early conclusion of the deal casts a shadow over the outlook.
The top trade officials of the 11 TPP countries began a two-day meeting in Tokyo on Monday, seeking to sort out outstanding issues for signing the Pacific Rim pact, including Canada’s request to restrict foreign films from coming in to protect its French-speaking culture.
Other members are cautious about accepting Ottawa’s request, however, as it would mean revising the agreements on trade liberalization in the TPP text, Japanese negotiation sources said.
After the U.S. pullout, the remaining 11 parties agreed on core elements of the new edition of the pact, now renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, in November in Vietnam, but left some matters for further negotiation such as the last-minute request by Canada.
Canada, facing tough negotiations with the United States over the North American Free Trade Agreement that also involves Mexico, has indicated its intention not to be rushed into signing the TPP in its current form, while Japan, Australia and Chile hope to sign the deal by March.
Given Canada’s apparent reluctance about hurrying to sign the deal, some Japanese negotiators have floated the idea of proceeding with signing without Ottawa.
Japan, seeking to implement the deal as soon as possible, wants the agreement signed by early March so that bills for TPP ratification can be submitted to the 150-day ordinary Diet session which started Monday.
Japan has led the way in resurrecting the pact since the withdrawal of the United States by President Donald Trump in January last year. Trump said the multilateral pact would hurt American jobs and that he preferred bilateral trade deals.
The original TPP pact was signed by the 11 countries and the United States in February 2016 but was never implemented after Washington pulled out.
Excluding the United States, the 11-party TPP’s share of world gross domestic product drops to 13 percent, but trade experts say the deal would still create a free trade area with high-standard market liberalization.
The 11 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.