Talks for TPP agreement reach critical point as APEC meets
DANANG, Vietnam — Talks on pushing ahead the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal without the United States reached a critical point on Thursday as ministers from the 11 countries discussed a proposed agreement in principle.
Meetings over the TPP, ditched by US President Donald J. Trump in one of his first acts in office, have been held on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in the Vietnamese resort of Danang.
Clear agreement on proceeding without the United States would be a boost for the principle of multilateral free trade pacts over the bilateral dealmaking that Mr. Trump favors.
But while Japan has been lobbying hard for a quick agreement to move ahead, Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia are among countries that have appeared less enthusiastic to hurry.
“We have collectively reached the stage where we can discuss a proposal for a final package for an agreement in principle of the TPP,” Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told ministers from the other countries. “I would like to
emphasize once again the importance of reaching an agreement in principle right here.”
Mr. Motegi said negotiators had tried to reach a conclusion satisfactory to all, “or put in a different way, a conclusion that makes everybody equally unhappy.”
The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion last year.
It also has provisions for protecting everything from labor rights to the environment to intellectual property — one of the main sticking points.
As ministers left a first meeting on Thursday, they said more discussions were needed. An official said they were expected to meet again in the evening ahead of talks between TPP leaders on Friday.
“We’ve got more work to do, but we are inching closer to an agreement so I remain very hopeful,” Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told reporters. —