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Disparate views revealed at APEC over TPP

Released at: 11:41, 09/11/2017

Disparate views revealed at APEC over TPP

Illustrative image (Source: kienthuc.net.vn)

TPP-11 split over pace of renewed negotiations following US's withdrawal.

by Quang Huy

Continuing disagreements over the TPP ditched by US President Donald Trump means the eleven remaining members may not be ready to give it a wholehearted go-ahead at a summit this week, officials said on November 8.

Clear agreement on proceeding without the US would be a boost for the principle of multilateral free trade pacts over the bilateral deal-making Mr. Trump argues will provide a better result for American workers.

However, officials from several member states said there was less of an appetite to move ahead quickly from some members, notably Canada, New Zealand, and Malaysia, while Vietnam and Japan have expressed commitments to push ahead.

The trade pact aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totaled $356 billion last year. It also has provisions for protecting everything from intellectual property to labor rights and the environment.

Chief negotiators from the TPP-11 countries met on November 6 and 7 and their ministers are due to meet on November 8 and 9 in Da Nang. A meeting of TPP leaders, who are all attending the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in the central city, has been tentatively scheduled.

“Our view is that we need to take the time to get the right deal,” one Canadian official who declined to be identified was quoted as saying.

During a press briefing held in Hanoi on November 8, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will not be too hasty in making a decision on the TPP.

Canada is willing to develop trade relations, he said, but will not rush to push the TPP forward, and his government will study the agreement to ensure it benefits the Canadian people.

Canada’s position is complicated by the fact that it is also renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a Trump administration that pulled the US out of the TPP in one of its first acts.

New Zealand’s new government has voiced support for the TPP but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was too early to say a deal could be reached this week. “We see a real responsibility to come in and make sure that the agreement is in the best interest of New Zealand,” she said.

For Malaysia, the main benefit of joining the TPP was the removal of tariffs on exports to the US. With an upcoming election and strengthening ties with Beijing, it has less incentive to rush ahead.

“I think as we all know, it is common sense that a TPP with the US has more value than a TPP without the US,” Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed told foreign newswire Bloomberg in an interview.

Vietnam itself had been seen as potentially the biggest beneficiary of the TPP when it included the US. “Vietnam will work actively with other economies to reduce the gap between them to ensure a balance of interests after the US decided to withdraw,” Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son told a news conference on November 7.

TPP trade ministers from the eleven remaining members agreed to move ahead without the US at a meeting in Vietnam in May, but asked their negotiators to look at what might need changing ahead of the meeting in Da Nang.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told his Vietnamese counterpart on November 7 that he hoped the TPP-11 countries could reach an agreement in principle this week, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman told a briefing in Da Nang on the same day.

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