Canada not rush­ing into TPP deal

The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Andy Blatchford

DANANG, Viet­nam — From the out­side, it looked like yet an­other bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween Justin Trudeau and his con­ti­nen­tal ally, En­rique Pena Ni­eto, on the side­lines of yet an­other lead­ers’ sum­mit.

But this time, the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter had a some­what atyp­i­cal agenda for his faceto-face chat with the Mex­i­can pres­i­dent.

Trudeau and Pena Ni­eto, who have built a good re­la­tion­ship in NAFTA’s ne­go­ti­at­ing trenches, gripped hands and ex­changed warm greet­ings in­side the meet­ing room.

It was the Cana­dian leader’s first bi­lat­eral meet­ing on the mar­gins of this year’s Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion sum­mit at a palm-lined, sea­side re­sort in Viet­nam. The Cana­dian team had planned it that way.

A key topic of dis­cus­sion, as they sank into the yel­low cush­ions on their chairs, fo­cused on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade talks.

Head­ing into APEC, a se­nior Cana­dian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said Ot­tawa had been an­tic­i­pat­ing pres­sure from TPP part­ners Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, two coun­tries that wanted to move for­ward quickly with seal­ing the 11-coun­try deal.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment, on the other hand, wanted to throw some sand in the gears. Ot­tawa had been push­ing the other par­ties to make changes to how the treaty would af­fect ar­eas like cul­ture, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and the auto sec­tor.

“We were not go­ing to be rushed into a deal,” Trudeau told re­porters at his clos­ing APEC news con­fer­ence on Satur­day, echo­ing warn­ings he had is­sued re­peat­edly over the course of the week.

The of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, pro­vided a peek be­hind the scenes of what fol­lowed dur­ing the TPP talks in Danang.

The Cana­dian team had no plans to agree to the deal at Fri­day’s TPP lead­ers’ meet­ing un­less the mod­i­fi­ca­tions were made. And they knew they had some al­lies. They had also been in­formed about un­ease about the deal among a few of the other coun­tries.

In­deed, the of­fi­cial said Ja­pan and Aus­tralia tried to rail­road Canada into com­mit­ting to an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple Fri­day by ar­gu­ing the other TPP mem­bers would be dis­ap­pointed if they didn’t de­liver, the of­fi­cial said. That’s where Mex­ico fit in. Trudeau ex­plained his sit­u­a­tion to Pena Ni­eto, who re­as­sured him that if Canada didn’t sign on to the TPP, Mex­ico wouldn’t ei­ther, the of­fi­cial said.

Mex­ico had been send­ing sim­i­lar sig­nals of re­straint about sign­ing on to a new TPP. The talks were “very pro­duc­tive,’ but more dis­cus­sion was needed, Mex­i­can Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ilde­fonso Gua- jardo was re­ported to have said on Thurs­day.

The of­fi­cial added that Pena Ni­eto likely of­fered his sup­port for two rea­sons: Mex­ico wasn’t 100 per cent com­fort­able with the deal on the ta­ble and the fact Canada has stood by it through the tough NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Shortly af­ter Pena Ni­eto left, Trudeau held his next bi­lat­eral of the day in the very same room - this time with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe. But this meet­ing lasted more than twice as long as the Mex­ico bi­lat­eral, a sign of tough talk.

Abe came to APEC look­ing for a win - an an­nounce­ment from Pa­cific Rim lead­ers that their huge trade deal would move for­ward just months af­ter it had been left for dead fol­low­ing Trump’s with­drawal ear­lier in the year.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Trudeau and Abe were sup­posed to walk a short dis­tance to a sched­uled TPP lead­ers’ meet­ing. Some of the TPP play­ers, in­clud­ing Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, had ex­pected the meet­ing to be a sign­ing cer­e­mony for an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple, the of­fi­cial said.

But the sign­ing never hap­pened, much to the cha­grin of many an Asian coun­try.

Canada asked for a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Ja­pan out of his re­spect for Abe and the coun­tries’ strong re­la­tion­ship, the of­fi­cial said. The plan was to tell him where Canada was com­ing from.

Abe was also in­formed about Mex­ico’s po­si­tion on the mat­ter, the of­fi­cial said.

Their meet­ing was pos­i­tive and it stretched for about 50 minutes, even though it had only been sched­uled for half that time. It cut into the planned TPP lead­ers’ meet­ing and kept the other lead­ers wait­ing for them in the room.

Over the course of that meet­ing, Abe, the TPP meet­ing’s co-chair, said he would have to post­pone the event. He left to tell the oth­ers about the post­pone­ment and Trudeau stayed be­hind in the bi­lat­eral-meet­ing room.

Trudeau faced sharp crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia and in news re­ports for not at­tend­ing the TPP meet­ing. The of­fi­cial dis­putes the no­tion it was a snub be­cause the lead­ers would min­gle at APEC events over the next 24 hours any­way.

“We ob­vi­ously had lots to talk about and at the end of that meet­ing it be­came clear that it was in ev­ery­one’s in­ter­est to post­pone the lead­ers’ meet­ing on the TPP11,” Trudeau said Satur­day.

Stay­ing away from the meet­ing wasn’t a ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy, but it did yield re­sults, the of­fi­cial claimed.

Late Fri­day, TPP trade min­is­ters agreed to changes and new ways for­ward in ar­eas Canada has been press­ing for, like au­tos, cul­tural in­dus­tries and the suspension of IP pro­vi­sions from the orig­i­nal TPP. The of­fi­cial said the changes didn’t come un­til af­ter Canada in­formed the group it wasn’t go­ing to agree to the deal with­out them.

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