Pacific trade deal reached but leaders won't endorse it yet

Trudeau Vietnam 20171109

"It can be said that the outcome of the meeting in Da Nang has demonstrated great efforts made by the 11 TPP countries to spur economic development, generate jobs, improve people's living standards, facilitate trade development, enhance regional economic ties and integrate into the world", said Anh.

Indeed, since his arrival in Vietnam, Trudeau has said he wouldn't cave to "pressure" from others, telegraphing that Canada did not have its pen in hand heading into Danang, the site of the APEC conference.

"However, prominent anti-TPP campaigner, Jane Kelsey from The University of Auckland law school, said in a statement based on a leaked text of today's progress statement that she was "'disappointed, but not surprised" that the Labour government had largely endorsed the TPP agreement signed up to by the previous National Party-led government "with the suspension of a limited range of items". Canada's trade minister later blamed Trudeau's absence on "a misunderstanding about the schedule".

Talks between trade and foreign ministers from the group failed to reach agreement on their usual joint statement in the face of USA demands to remove language about supporting free trade and fighting protectionism. "They said they had gained consent from the top leader".

Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said late on Friday that all 11 countries had now agreed on the plan to move ahead.

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Talks fell into disarray on Friday when Japan's President Shinzo Abe canceled a meeting of leaders from the TPP countries after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not arrive there.

It would be hard to resist Trump's demands for greater American content in autos when Canada (and Mexico, which was also a signatory of TPP12) has allowed Asia to maintain a lower bar.

The dramas over Canada are not related to the freaky events of last night in which the TPP deal was declared done by trade ministers, including Canada's Trade Minister, but Vietnam then objected to a particular issue.

More work needs to be done for the agreement to be endorsed by leaders of the member countries at some unspecified point in the future.

Ardern said CPTPP was "a different deal than what was being negotiated at the time that the United States were at the table ... not least because there have been some suspended clauses which were important to NZ in particular". Chinese President Xi Jinping drew loud applause during a speech to the same group 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.

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Later, leaders of the 21 Apec economies agreed to address "unfair trade practices" and called for the removal of "market distorting subsidies", in contrast to communiques they have issued in the past.

As an institution, apart from its pageantry and its tradition of drawing leaders together for face-to-face meetings, APEC mainly serves as a laboratory for trying out policies and encouraging "best practices", said Alan Bollard, executive director for APEC's secretariat.

APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues nonbinding statements.

"We have witnessed changes more rapid and complex than we expect", he said in opening remarks.

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. 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.

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