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Reuters | 23 January 2018
Japan says trans-Pacific trade pact, without US, to be signed in March
by Kaori Kaneko, Takashi Umekawa
Eleven countries aiming to forge a new Asia-Pacific trade pact after the United States pulled out of an earlier version will hold a signing ceremony in Chile in March, Japan’s economy minister said on Tuesday, in a big win for Tokyo.
Trade officials from the 11 countries had been meeting in Tokyo to try to resolve rifts including Canada’s insistence on protection of its cultural industries such as movies, TV and music.
An agreement is a huge plus for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been lobbying hard to save the pact, originally called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the original 12-nation trade agreement last year.
Abe has painted the deal as a spur to growth and reform in Japan and a symbol of commitment to free and multilateral trade at a time when Trump is stressing “America First” policies.
Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that the new agreement, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP), or TPP-11, would be an “engine to overcome protectionism” emerging in parts of the world.
He also said Japan would explain the importance of the deal to Washington in hopes of persuading it to join.
Ministers from the 11 countries including Japan, Australia and Canada had agreed in November on core elements to move ahead without the United States, but demands by countries including Canada for measures to ensure the deal protects jobs have been a sticking point to finalizing the agreement.
“This outcome reaffirms the CPTPP countries’ collective commitment towards greater trade liberalization and regional integration,” Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week that the new agreement would leave a door open for eventual U.S. participation.
Canada, which has sought protection of its cultural industries, and Vietnam, which has worried about labor protection rules, will exchange separate side letters with other members on those respective topics at the time of the signing, Motegi said.
The precise content of the letters will not be revealed until then, a Japanese official added.