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.
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.