Hopes fade for TPP breakthrough in APEC
Canada accused of stalling for time, hampering prospects for a deal
Talks in Vietnam to resurrect a landmark Pacific trade deal rejected by the Trump administration remained deadlocked on Friday, as Canada was accused of stalling for time and hampering the prospects of a breakthrough deal at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was initially a US-led tread deal between 12 nations accounting for 40 percent of global GDP, which had been hailed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.
But it was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump abruptly pulled out of the deal at the start of the year, dismaying allies including Japan, Australia, Canada and Vietnam.
Hopes had been high that the remaining countries – dubbed the TPP-11 – would be able to hash out a new deal on the sidelines of the annual APEC meeting in Vietnam.
They are keen to show the deal can still go ahead without the world’s largest economy.
But three days of talks have made little headway, despite premature reports late Thursday that an interim deal had been struck.
Chile’s foreign minister Heraldo Munoz said negotiators almost had an agreement nailed down until a last-minute intervention by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“The Prime Minister of Canada has asked for more time,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon, adding that among the demands Ottawa was pushing for were stronger intellectual property protections.
The original TPP deal was once described by the US as a “gold standard” for all free trade agreements because it went far beyond just cutting tariffs.
It included removing a slew of non-tariff measures and required members to comply with a high level of regulatory standards in areas like labor law, environmental protection, intellectual property and government procurement.
Canada is keen to strengthen those progressive provisions.
But they are much less attractive to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Peru now that the carrot of access to the US market has been pulled.
Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is leading the charge to revive the TPP, concerned that delays could lead to the eventual collapse of the pact.
But there has been much confusion over the progress of talks in Da Nang, with a string of canceled press conferences and conflicting statements.