Trudeau weighs trade deal, Pa­cific lead­ers left hang­ing


The res­ur­rected Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal, cham­pi­oned by Mal­colm Turn­bull, was in limbo last night af­ter Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau failed to turn up for a cru­cial fi­nal lead­ers’ meet­ing in Viet­nam.

The Aus­tralian side, un­der­stood to be fu­ri­ous over the de­vel­op­ment, be­lieves the Cana­di­ans “screwed ev­ery­body” with their undiplo­matic ges­ture that was seen as deeply em­bar­rass­ing for the APEC host coun­try.

“It’s less than ideal to have ev­ery leader and trade min­is­ter from the other 10 coun­tries sit­ting around the ta­ble and not have Canada there,’’ Aus­tralian Trade Min­is­ter Steve Ciobo said. “It’s not an ideal out­come.’’ Mr Turn­bull later met Mr Trudeau on the side­lines of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion sum­mit in Da Nang.

Af­ter hopes of an­nounc­ing a break­through for the TPP 11, fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion by the 11 coun­tries’ trade min­is­ters to reach a “sub­stan­tial con­clu­sion”, the trade part­ner­ship was not fi­nalised.

Moves by the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment to cham­pion the deal were in stark con­trast to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s rhetoric on trade.

In a fiery speech to the con­fer­ence, Mr Trump vowed to take ac­tion against China’s “chronic trade abuses” and de­clared a new “Indo-Pa­cific dream” of “fair and re­cip­ro­cal” trade.

Trade min­is­ters from the 11 coun­tries in­volved in the TPP reached the agree­ment early yes­ter­day but it re­quired sign-off from their na­tion’s lead­ers.

TPP 11 lead­ers, seated at one ta­ble, were left fum­ing when Canada failed to at­tend and were told the coun­try had asked for last­minute ex­emp­tions to the deal.

“Trade min­is­ters have reached a sub­stan­tial con­clu­sion on the TPP 11. We’ve made rec­om­men­da­tions to lead­ers for their con­sid­er­a­tion and I am very hope­ful that we will have the lead­ers’ agree­ment,” Mr Ciobo said.

The agree­ment was al­most de­railed ear­lier this year when Mr Trump pulled the US out of what was to have been a 12-na­tion deal. The TPP 11 in­cludes Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, Brunei, Chile, Viet­nam, Canada, Mex­ico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, and Sin­ga­pore.

While Mr Ciobo said the deal was “not strate­gic”, some ex­perts have pointed to China’s ab­sence from the agree­ment to ar­gue it forms a Pa­cific trad­ing bloc in op­po­si­tion to the su­per­power.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands there were at least four stick­ing points that will now have to be re­solved be­fore the deal is for­mally signed. Gov­ern­ment sources said these in­cluded is­sues re­lat­ing to Malaysian state-owned en­ter­prises and labour con­di­tions in Viet­nam. The Turn­bull gov­ern­ment was un­der­stood to be con­tent with a num­ber of so-called “freezes” on cer­tain clauses in the orig­i­nal agree­ment sought by coun­tries af­ter the US pulled out. They in­cluded one pre­vent­ing com­pet­ing ver­sions of new drugs from en­ter­ing the mar­ket for a cer­tain pe­riod of time, which mainly ben­e­fited US pharma com­pa­nies.

These were to be kept in the agree­ment in or­der to en­tice the US to con­sider join­ing in the fu­ture. But Mr Trump’s APEC speech was likely to dampen hopes this would oc­cur un­der his lead­er­ship. Un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the US had in­sisted on pro­vi­sions to lift labour stan­dards in Viet­nam and for the state to al­low in­de­pen­dent unions.

The agree­ment, if signed, would func­tion as a new deal to the orig­i­nal TPP that in­cluded the US, and would have to pass na­tional par­lia­ments be­fore com­ing into force. There re­mained no clear timeline for the re­main­ing is­sues to be re­solved.


Chris­tine Forster strug­gles through pro­test­ers out­side a fundraiser for her brother Tony Ab­bott in Syd­ney last night

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