Talks for TPP agree­ment reach crit­i­cal point as APEC meets

Business World - - FRONT PAGE -

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. —

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