TPP11 countries commit to "core elements"


After a dramatic few days where Canada’s future in the Trans-Pacific Partnership appeared uncertain, the 11 countries tried to end the week on a positive note.

All 11 have agreed on “core elements” for a revised Pacific trade deal, but they are still negotiating several files as leaders head home from Vietnam.

“Ministers are pleased to announce that they have agreed on the core elements of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said a ministerial statement at the conclusion of the TPP11 meeting on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

“We are pleased that progress is being made towards a possible agreement, but there is still some work to be done,” said Canada’s trade minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, late Friday.

Champagne and other ministers have started referring to it as the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (or CPTPP) — a possible name change for the agreement.

Leaders from the 11 countries were supposed to meet on Friday, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t show up at the meeting after a bilateral visit with Japan’s Prime Minister Abe ran long.

Media in Australia quoted a government official saying “the Canadians screwed everybody” after Trudeau’s no-show. The New Zealand Herald reported all the other leaders were waiting for the leaders from Japan and Canada, only to have Japan’s Prime Minister Abe return to the room to say Trudeau wasn’t going to attend.

Champagne told reporters on Friday evening that “there was never intention not to show up at any meeting” and “there was a misunderstanding about the schedule,” according to Kelsey Johnson’s reporting for iPolitics. (Read her report here.)

Related: Conflicting reports on whether a tentative TPP deal has been reached

All of this drama came a day after Japan said ministers from all 11 countries had reached an agreement-in-principle, only to have Champagne immediately respond by saying there was no deal.

According to CBC, issues that have yet to be resolved include intellectual property rights and automotive text. Champagne indicated that progress was made on labour provisions on Friday, particularly with Malaysia and Vietnam.

Canadian farm groups who represent farmers that rely on trade were notably disturbed on Friday by Trudeau’s absence from the leader meeting and the Canadian government’s reluctance to go ahead with a deal.

“It’s crucial that we get back on track with this one – and do it quickly,” said Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, on Friday. “Not doing so will be extremely costly – losing opportunity overseas and economic growth and jobs here at home.”

We’ll have more as the TPP (or is it now the CPTPP?) situation unfolds.

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