Trans-Pa­cific trade deal ad­vances with­out US

Tak­ing the agree­ment for­ward is a boost for the prin­ci­ple of mul­ti­lat­eral trade pacts af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ditched the TPP early this year.

The Sunday Guardian - - Business - REUTERS REUTERS

Coun­tries in the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) trade deal have agreed on the core el­e­ments to move ahead with­out the United States, of­fi­cials said on Satur­day, af­ter last-minute re­sis­tance from Canada raised new doubts about its sur­vival.

Tak­ing the agree­ment for­ward is a boost for the prin­ci­ple of mul­ti­lat­eral trade pacts af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ditched the TPP early this year in favour of an “Amer­ica First” pol­icy he be­lieves would save US jobs.

Talks—of­ten heated—have been held on the side­lines of an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit in the Viet­namese re­sort of Danang, where Trump and other lead­ers held their main meet­ing on Satur­day.

“We have over­come the hard­est part,” Viet­nam’s trade min­is­ter, Tran Tuan Anh, told a news con­fer­ence.

The agree­ment, which still needs to be fi­nalised, would now be called the Com­pre­hen­sive and Pro­gres­sive Agree­ment for Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (CPTPP), he said.

Ja­panese Econ­omy Min­is­ter Toshim­itsu Motegi said he hoped that mov­ing ahead with the deal would be a step to­wards bring­ing back the United States.

Partly to counter China’s grow­ing dom­i­nance in Asia, Ja­pan had been lob­by­ing hard for the TPP pact, which aims to elim­i­nate tar­iffs on in­dus­trial and farm prod­ucts across the 11-na­tion bloc whose trade to­talled $356 bil­lion last year.

Some 20 pro­vi­sions of the orig­i­nal agree­ment were sus­pended. Those in­cluded some re­lated to pro­tect­ing labour rights and the en­vi­ron­ment, al­though most were re­lated to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty—one of the main stick­ing points af­ter the US with­drawal.

“The over­all im­pact on most firms is quite mod­est,” said Deb­o­rah Elms of the Asian Trade Cen­tre think-tank, adding that the new ver­sion was “essen­tially iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment”. Any kind of deal looked doubt­ful on Fri­day, when a sum­mit of TPP lead­ers was called off af­ter Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau did not at­tend. Canada’s trade min­is­ter later blamed Trudeau’s ab­sence on “a mis­un­der­stand­ing about the sched­ule”.

Canada, which has the sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy among re­main­ing TPP coun­tries af­ter Ja­pan, had said it wanted to en­sure an agree­ment that would pro­tect jobs.

Canada’s po­si­tion has been fur­ther com­pli­cated by the fact that it is si­mul­ta­ne­ously rene­go­ti­at­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In a speech in Danang, Trump sent out a strong mes­sage that he was only in­ter- ested in bi­lat­eral deals in Asia that would not dis­ad­van­tage the United States.

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping used the same fo­rum to stress mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and said glob­al­i­sa­tion was an ir­re­versible trend.

The APEC lead­ers met in closed ses­sions on Satur­day, paus­ing for the tra­di­tional “fam­ily pho­to­graph”, taken above the South China Sea.

At the start of the meet­ing, Viet­namese Pres­i­dent Tran Dai Quang noted APEC’s suc­cess in re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to trade —as well as the new un­cer­tainty in the world. Ru­pert Mur­doch tele­phoned AT&T Inc Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Ran­dall Stephen­son twice in the last six months and talked about ca­ble net­work CNN, sources briefed on the mat­ter told Reuters on Fri­day.

Ac­cord­ing to one of the sources, the 86-year-old ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Twenty-First Cen­tury Fox Inc of­fered to buy CNN in both con­ver­sa­tions.

An­other source said Mur­doch had “zero in­ter­est” in own­ing CNN.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Twenty-First Cen­tury Fox, AT&T and Time Warner, CNN’s par­ent, de­clined com­ment.

CNN has be­come the fo­cal point in an­titrust ap­proval of AT&T’s $85.4 bil­lion deal to buy Time Warner Inc, hatched in Oc­to­ber 2016.

US Depart­ment of Jus­tice staff have rec­om­mended that AT&T sell ei­ther its DirecTV unit or Time Warner’s Turner Broad­cast­ing unit - which in­cludes CNN - a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told Reuters on Thurs­day, in or­der to gain an­titrust ap­proval.

On Thurs­day Stephen­son said he had no in­ter­est in sell­ing CNN and that he was ready to de­fend the deal in court if nec­es­sary.

Ac­cord­ing to one of the sources on Fri­day, Mur­doch called Stephen­son twice, un­prompted, on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both oc­ca­sions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephen­son replied both times that it was not, ac­cord­ing to the source.

The fate of CNN has broader po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly at­tacked the net­work for its cov­er­age of his cam­paign and his ad­min­is­tra­tion, while he has pub­licly praised Mur­doch’s Fox News.

In the run-up to last year’s elec­tion he vowed that as pres­i­dent his Jus­tice Depart­ment would block AT&T’s pur­chase of Time Warner. He has not com­mented on the trans­ac­tion since tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary.

Trump’s com­ments have pro­voked con­cern that he may im­prop­erly in­flu­ence the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice to block the deal. The White House has said Trump has not spo­ken to the at­tor­ney gen­eral about the mat­ter.

Nev­er­the­less, a group of eight Demo­cratic U.S. se­na­tors on Fri­day wrote to Makan Del­rahim, head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s an­titrust di­vi­sion, urg­ing the depart­ment “to op­pose any at­tempt by the White House to in­ter­fere with an­titrust law en­force­ment de­ci­sions, par­tic­u­larly for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.”

Del­rahim said he had not had any contact with the White House or the at­tor­ney gen­eral on the mat­ter, speak­ing at an event at the USC Gould School of Law in Los An­ge­les later in the day.

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