Disagreement over Trans Pacific Partnership Pact as ministers huddle in Vietnam

Disagreement over Trans Pacific Partnership Pact as ministers huddle in Vietnam

Ministers from 11 remaining TPP members are in Vietnam wrangling over details of the deal AFP/Anthony WALLACE

DANANG, Vietnam: Asia-Pacific nations struggled to salvage the sprawling Trans Pacific Partnership Pact-11 (TPP-11) trade deal Friday (Nov 10), following the pull out by the US from the original pact, with Canada refuting reports an agreement in principle had been struck.

The TPP was initially a US-led initiative between 12 nations accounting for 40 per cent of global GDP, but excluding Washington's regional rival China.

It was thrown into disarray when President Donald Trump abruptly pulled out of the deal at the start of the year, dismaying allies including Japan, Australia, Canada and Vietnam.

Trade ministers from 11 remaining members are in Vietnam wrangling over details of the deal - which no longer promises access to the world's largest market - on the sidelines of the annual APEC summit.

Reports in Japanese media late Thursday said an agreement in principle had been reached to press ahead with the TPP-11.

"We reached an agreement that has a high level of standard which also strikes a good balance," Japan's economic revitalisation minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who co-chaired the meetings in Danang, told reporters.

But claims of a breakthrough were later denied by Canada's trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

"Despite reports, there is no agreement in principle on TPP," he said in a tweet.

Japan is leading the charge to revive the TPP.

But other nations, including Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam, are keen for tweaks to various points and are wrangling over whether some initial elements can be suspended to avoid the collapse of the pact.

Canada wants to keep the strong "gold standard" elements of the deal, including guarantees on upholding labour rights inside signatory countries.

But economies such as Malaysia and Vietnam - with its massive state sector - are less inclined to concede ground on testy areas now the carrot of access to American markets has been taken from the table.

President Trump's spectacular emergence has unpicked decades of US-led work towards more open global trade and lower tariffs.

The original TPP deal was previously described by the US as a "gold standard" for all free trade agreements because it went beyond just cutting tariffs.

It included removing a slew of non-tariff measures and required members to comply with a high level of regulatory standards in areas like labour law, environmental protection, intellectual property and government procurement.

Source: AFP/ms

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