DANANG, Vietnam – Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Chile, have agreed a new framework to revive the proposed trade deal, following the US withdrawal earlier this year.
A statement issued in the early hours Saturday said an accord was reached on “core elements” of the 11-member pact, aimed for free and open trade. The compromise was delayed by last-minute disagreements that prevented the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaders from meeting to endorse a plan on Friday.
However, an immediate formal endorsement by the countries’ leaders meeting in Vietnam appeared unlikely.
A news conference was scheduled for later Saturday morning Vietnam time.
Canada had been accused of stalling. However, International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, in a tweet Saturday, said that “after lots of work, big progress on the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.'”
— François-P Champagne (@FP_Champagne) November 10, 2017
Mr. Champagne also denied that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had deliberately skipped a leaders’ meeting on the TPP on Friday and blamed his no-show on a scheduling mix-up. “There was never an intention not to show up at any meeting,” he said.
PM Trudeau said earlier in the week that Canada would not be rushed into a renewed TPP deal.
Canadian officials said Canada was not the only country that wanted more time to work through the agreement.
— Department of State (@StateDept) November 11, 2017
The other countries working towards an agreement are Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.
Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s economy minister, told reporters a ministerial agreement had been reached.
“We have confirmed there was no mistake about us having reached a basic agreement,” Motegi said.
The bid to revive the TPP, which would have covered 40% of the global economy, was led by trade ministers from Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the U.S., the biggest economy and, before Trump took office, one of its most assertive supporters. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements to, as he says, “put America first.”
Trump reiterated his markedly different stance on trade before the 21-member APEC summit convened late Friday with a gala banquet.
Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to U.S. involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP, according to Associated Press.
In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.
The Chinese president drew loud applause when he urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific. China is not part of the TPP.
As a developing country with a fast-growing export sector, this year’s host country, Vietnam, has a strong interest in open trade and access for its exports to consumers in the West. The summit is an occasion for its leaders to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to foreign investment and trade. Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.
APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.
The summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum wraps up later Saturday.