Pacific Nations Agree to Save TPP Trade Pact

January 23, 2018 10:39 AM

(Bloomberg) -- The 11 remaining members of a Pacific trade pact abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump have reached a deal on a revised agreement, with the nations to work toward signing the deal by early March, according to Singapore’s government.

Senior officials resolved outstanding issues, finalized the list of suspended provisions and completed the legal verification of the agreement, concluding negotiations on what has been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Singapore’s trade ministry said Tuesday in a statement.

The deal was reached after two days of talks in Tokyo, and came just hours after Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines -- his first major move to level what he says is a global playing field tilted against U.S. companies. The whole agreement looked like it might collapse after contentious negotiations in November, when Canada’s participation was thrown into doubt.

Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Canada has agreed to work toward approving the deal, and he believed they would follow through on that.

“Today, Canada and the 10 other remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership concluded discussions in Tokyo, Japan, on a new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Joe Pickerill, director of communications for Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, said Tuesday in an email.

The agreement comes at a pivotal time for Canada, the second-largest economy in the pact after Trump quit. The country is in the midst of talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, the trilateral accord with the U.S. and Mexico that Trump is also threatening to quit. Part of the Canadian response to U.S. Nafta threats has been to push to expand trade ties elsewhere, including Asia.

The original Trans Pacific Partnership, which would have covered 40 percent of the global economy, was seen as a guarantee of U.S. involvement in Asia and a counterweight to Chinese clout -- an idea thrown into disarray when Trump withdrew in one of his first acts as president. Japan has led a scramble to keep the deal alive, with the hope of enticing the U.S. to return at a later date.

“The CPTPP will enhance trade among countries in the Asia-Pacific, resulting in more seamless flows of goods, services, and investment regionally,” Singaporean Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang was quoted as saying.

Of the four remaining issues left after the talks in Vietnam in November, the sections of the deal Brunei and Malaysia had a problem with will be frozen, Motegi said. Matters involving Vietnam’s labor rights and Canada’s cultural goods will be dealt with in side letters, which each country agreed to sign separately to the CPTPP deal, he said.

Pickerill said Canada achieved “a significant outcome on culture and an improved arrangement on autos with Japan along with the suspension of many IP provisions of interest to Canadian stakeholders,” referring to intellectual property provisions.

The following countries make up the agreement: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.


©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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