Canada trum­pets progress on TPP


DANANG, Viet­nam — An agree­ment in prin­ci­ple on the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship ap­peared to inch closer to re­al­ity late Fri­day af­ter a fre­netic, con­fus­ing day of talks and me­dia re­ports that bluntly blamed Canada and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau for help­ing to scut­tle a sched­uled meet­ing of lead­ers to dis­cuss the Pa­cific Rim trade pact.

In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois-Philippe Cham­pagne sum­moned jour­nal­ists just be­fore mid­night to say that the TPP trade min­is­ters had agreed to a num­ber of key changes that moved the talks closer to a deal. Canada is bet­ter off be­cause of the new de­vel­op­ments, Cham­pagne said.

“We don’t set­tle for just any deal,” Cham­pagne said, ac­knowl­edg­ing Trudeau’s de­cid­edly down­beat com­ments from a day ear­lier. “If it takes one more day, so be it.”

He said the TPP coun­tries agreed to sus­pend con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sions from the orig­i­nal TPP deal re­lated to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Lead­ers in Canada’s tech sec­tor have long pressed Ot­tawa to have those el­e­ments re­moved from the deal.

Cham­pagne also said the part­ners es­tab­lished a frame­work to deal with rules of ori­gin is­sues re­lated to the auto sec­tor and on how the coun­tries will pro­ceed with in­clud­ing cul­tural ex­emp­tions into the treaty.

The par­ties also agreed, he added, to en­hance el­e­ments in the pact re­lated to the en­vi­ron­ment and are much closer to stronger pro­tec­tions of labour rights.

The news capped a hec­tic day of de­vel­op­ments that made it dif­fi­cult to nail down just how well the talks were go­ing.

On Thurs­day, Trudeau sig­nalled Canada was in no hurry to sign on to a deal, not­with­stand­ing me­dia re­ports based on com­ments from Ja­pan’s econ­omy min­is­ter that said the par­ties were on the verge of an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple.

The next day, Trudeau failed to ap­pear as sched­uled for a meet­ing of the 11 TPP coun­tries on the side­lines of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion lead­ers’ sum­mit — a meet­ing that was sub­se­quently can­celled by the co-chair, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

He missed the meet­ing, Cham­pagne ex­plained, be­cause an im­por­tant bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Abe ran about 25 min­utes longer than ex­pected. Trudeau’s of­fice said Abe, co-chair of the lead­ers’ meet­ing, can­celled the event af­ter his 50-minute dis­cus­sion with Trudeau.

“It is as sim­ple as the (Abe) meet­ing took longer than ex­pected,” Cham­pagne said. “APEC is 21 world lead­ers in the room — things are fluid.”

Canada was not the only coun­try to raise con­cerns about the deal.

“There are a few coun­tries who con­tinue to have some im­por­tant is­sues that they would like to be ad­dressed,” For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said when asked about the al­le­ga­tions that Canada is hold­ing up the TPP.

A re­port in Aus­tralia’s Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald said Trudeau “sab­o­taged” the talks at the last minute by fail­ing to show up for the meet­ing. The New Zealand Her­ald re­ported that Trudeau’s “no-show ” had de­layed TPP talks in­def­i­nitely. Ot­tawa is still at the TPP ta­ble and doesn’t want to rush such a com­plex deal, Free­land said.

Canada’s re­sis­tance to the new TPP does not come out en­tirely of the blue.

Over the past week as talk of some kind of deal grew louder, se­nior of­fi­cials and Trudeau alike talked about want­ing to roll back con­ces­sions made dur­ing the broader TPP talks when the U.S. was still in­volved. In par­tic­u­lar, they pointed to a need for stronger pro­tec­tions for Cana­dian cul­ture, sup­ply man­age­ment and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

At the same time, Canada has been push­ing to add new el­e­ments to the re­vised TPP, in­clud­ing pro­vi­sions for gen­der, en­vi­ron­ment and labour.

The 11 re­main­ing TPP coun­tries have been work­ing to re­vive the deal, which was aban­doned ear­lier this year by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

A se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial says Ja­pan has been one of the coun­tries ap­ply­ing pres­sure on Canada to come to an agree­ment on an up­dated TPP.

Trudeau’s lengthy bi­lat­eral dis­cus­sion with Abe, mean­while, ap­peared to get off to a chilly start.

Af­ter they greeted each other in­side their meet­ing room, Trudeau and Abe stood side by side and smiled for the news cam­eras. But they only clasped hands af­ter some­one in the room said: “Shake hands, please.”

Canada and Ja­pan, the two largest economies at the TPP talks, ap­peared to have dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions ahead of Fri­day ’s sched­uled ne­go­ti­a­tions.


Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois-Philippe Cham­pagne speaks with the me­dia at the APEC sum­mit in Danang, Viet­nam, on Fri­day.

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