News ID: 204186
Published: 0943 GMT November 12, 2017

Pacific Rim nations agree ‘core elements’ of new trade pact

Pacific Rim nations agree  ‘core elements’ of new trade pact

Eleven Pacific Rim countries have agreed on the ‘core elements’ of a vast new regional trade pact without the US by stripping out a swath of intellectual property protections and other contentious measures previously advocated by Washington.

Ministers from Japan and 10 other countries, meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, said they had agreed on the outlines under a new name: the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, FT reported.

Tran Tuan Anh, the Vietnamese minister of industry and trade who hosted the negotiations, hailed the pact as a successor to the TPP, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the US in January as part of a bid to rewrite Washington’s approach to trade.

“While one country withdrew from the TPP 12, all the other countries have expressed a determination to continue walking down this road,” he told a news conference in Da Nang.

However, the 11 remaining members of the TPP said they still needed more time to work through four outstanding details, none of which appeared to be major.

That means the TPP, which Barack Obama’s previous US administration spent years negotiating but Trump wanted to scuttle altogether, remains in limbo.

Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese economy minister, said the new agreement would suspend provisions covering 20 items of the original TPP, 11 of which had to do with intellectual property.

“The substance is something all the 11 countries can agree,” Motegi said.

“This will send out a very strong message to the US and to other Asia-Pacific countries.”

He said the new agreement would enter into force 60 days after at least six signatories had completed procedures to join. According to one person close to the talks, the aim is for leaders to sign the deal in the first quarter of next year, with it going into force as soon as possible after that.

“I would like to say that the difficult road is behind us and we are marching steadily towards CPTPP,” said Tran Tuan Anh. “We have very high faith in the future.”

Although the US exit from the TPP has left the deal smaller in scale with Japan now its biggest member economy, the 11 remaining countries still include almost 500 million people and cover more than $10 trillion in economic output, 13 percent of the global total. Other countries, including South Korea and Indonesia, have expressed an interest in joining in the future.

The deal’s new name was one of a number of concessions made to Canada and the government of Justin Trudeau, who is eager to portray the rebadged deal as a victory for what he has called his ‘progressive’ trade agenda.

“Canada’s commitment to open and progressive trade, both at home and abroad, has been unwavering since the beginning of my mandate,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Da Nang.

“Our government will continue to demonstrate leadership on this front and advocate for Canadian interests, especially as we continue our discussions on a Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

While more talks remain ahead, analysts and negotiators said none of the outstanding areas appeared impossible to resolve and a deal could be signed within months, clearing the way for it to go into force, at least provisionally, as early as next year.

“This deal is a sign that the TPP will be concluded,” said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based Asian Trade Center. “They had an agreement more than once this week, which shows how close they actually are."

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