Despite Trump Rebuke, Tran-Pacific Trade Deal Is On

(CN) – President Donald Trump made the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership one of the first acts of his presidency, but the 11 remaining members said Tuesday they intend to move forward with the deal.

In an interview with the Financial Times of London, Japan’s economic minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, said the member nations have resolved their outstanding differences and hope to sign an agreement by March.

“The decision for all 11 countries to participate is epoch-making for our country and the future of the Asia-Pacific region,” Motegi said in Tokyo.

The successful completion of the latest round of talks on the agreement was later confirmed by François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of international trade.

Besides Japan, the new deal’s partners are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The minister told the FT that the deal, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, will likely be signed in Chile on March 8.

An earlier deal was scuttled in November by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who raised a wide array of concerns pertaining to labor, cultural rights and the automotive industry.

The pact came together after the members agreed to suspend provisions relating to intellectual property and other thorny issues.

In a lengthy statement, Canada’s Champagne said Canadian negotiators were able to secure a “significant” agreement on cultural commerce issues as well as “an improved arrangement on autos with Japan, along with the suspension of many intellectual property provisions of concern to Canadian stakeholders.”

“Canada has always said that we would only agree to a deal that is in Canada’s best interests,” he said. “To that end, Canada has been working very hard on the new CPTPP, from spearheading the first meetings of officials in May 2017 to proposing several suspensions and changes to secure better terms for Canadians throughout this burgeoning region.

“We said from the beginning that we didn’t want just any deal; we wanted a good deal for Canada and for Canadians,” Champagne  continued. ” The agreement reached in Tokyo today is the right deal.  … and this agreement meets our objectives of creating and sustaining growth, prosperity and well-paying middle-class jobs today and for generations to come.”

Vietnam, meanwhile, would like to see an easing of sanctions against it for violations of labor rules, and Malaysia and Brunei are seeking a slower timeline for implementing rules impacting their core industries.

These issues are now being dealt with in separate negotiations, allowing a larger agreement to go forward.

Motegi told the Financial Times that he continues to hope the United States will rejoin the pact.

“There are also other countries interested,” he told the newspaper. “I’d like to look at expansion.”

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