Talks on pushing ahead the Trans Pacific Partnership
(TPP) trade deal without the United States
reached a critical point on Thursday as ministers from the 11 countries discussed a proposed agreement in principle.
Talks on the TPP, ditched by US President Donald Trump
in one of his first acts in office, have been held on the sidelines of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 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 favours. 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," Japanese Economy
Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told ministers from the other countries.
The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion last year. It also has provisions for protecting everything from labour rights to the environment to intellectual property. As ministers left the first meeting on Thursday, they said more discussions were needed. An official said they were expected to meet again in the evening ahead of talks between TPP leaders on Friday.
"We've got more work to do, but we are inching closer to an agreement so I remain very hopeful," Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told reporters.