TORONTO -- The 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership members agreed over two-day talks here to resuscitate the trade pact without the U.S., but differences remained over the shape the new deal would take.
The gathered representatives agreed to "keep moving discussions forward so as not to lose momentum," said Keiichi Katakami, Japan's top negotiator for the TPP.
The partner nations intend to hammer out their next steps, including a concrete proposal to enact the 11-party framework, at ministerial talks in Vietnam later this month. Canada, which hosted this week's meeting, will arrange a joint statement to be delivered at those talks.
Representatives "did not differ" on the objective of realizing the high-level free trade rules laid out for the TPP in October 2015, said Katakami. Participants such as Vietnam and Malaysia, from whom some feared resistance, were on board with executing an 11-way pact.
But with the U.S. gone from the table, the language needs to be reworked to make the treaty a 11-member pact. Many members said it would be difficult to justify the pact to their countries without the benefit of opening the U.S. market. Tokyo, the senior partner in the TPP since the U.S. withdrew in January, hoped to preserve the pact's terms, but some countries showed a desire for change.
Challenges in enacting the pact "are piling up, and the reality is that it will be tough to solve them," said a Japanese government affiliate.
Japan hopes to reach a deal by November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. But depending on the domestic situations of the other 10 members, negotiations may become bogged down.