DANANG, Vietnam — Talks on pushing ahead the Trans Pacific Partnership 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 U.S. President Donald Trump in one of his first acts in office, have been held on the sidelines of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation 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 deal-making that 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,” Motegi told ministers from the other countries. “I would like to emphasize once again the importance of reaching an agreement in principle right here.”
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 totaled $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.
Canada, whose economy is the second biggest among the TPP-11 after Japan, said on Wednesday it would not be rushed into a revived TPP deal.
“We are constructive, we are even creative at the table. At the same time we want to make sure we get the right deal,” Canada’s trade minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, told Reuters.
The positions of both Canada and Mexico are also complicated by the fact that they are renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the Trump administration.
Trump and other APEC leaders, including President Xi Jinping of China and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will meet on Friday in the Vietnamese seaside resort of Danang.
Among options being discussed by TPP countries is whether to suspend some provisions of the original agreement to avoid having to renegotiate it and potentially to entice the United States back in the long term, officials said.