May 21, 2017 1:59 pm JST

'TPP 11' ministers pledge to revive stalled agreement

After US withdrawal, other signatories to press ahead with trade deal

JUN YAMAZAKI and RYOHEI YASOSHIMA, Nikkei staff writers

HANOI -- Ministers from 11 countries participating in stalled negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, excluding the United States, met in Vietnam on Sunday to affirm "the value of realizing the TPP's benefits."

Meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation talks, the ministers agreed to instruct senior officials to discuss "options to bring the comprehensive, high quality agreement into force expeditiously," with a view to further progress in November.

Leaving open the possibility that the U.S. would return to the negotiating table, the statement also said senior officials would consider measures to encourage the return of original member countries.

The U.S. is the only TPP signatory to have abandoned the trade deal. After regularly denouncing international trade agreements on the campaign trail last year, President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the TPP in February.

Sunday's statement emphasized the implementation of the TPP would "contribute positively to the economic growth prospects of its member countries."

Participating ministers also signaled their hope that the agreement would eventually expand to "include other economies that can accept the high standards of the TPP."

"The eleven countries' commitment (to the TPP) has been explicitly affirmed," Japan's economic and fiscal policy minister Nobuteru Ishihara,  told reporters in Hanoi after the meeting.

"I don't expect the U.S. will rejoin the deal so easily, but Japan will continue to work ... to return to TPP membership," he added.

Japan will host a meeting of chief negotiators from the eleven countries in July, Ishihara said.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters that all ministers from the eleven states had demonstrated a full commitment to maintain momentum toward implementing the trade deal.

At a chief negotiators meeting on Saturday, discussion heated up temporarily over differences regarding the entry into force of the agreement in each country, as well as whether changes should be made to the content of the agreement.

At the ministerial gathering on the following day, however, a draft statement devised at a chief negotiators meeting held in Canada earlier this month was adopted with few changes. The ministerial meeting ended more than 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

The full text of the statement is below.

  • Ministers and Vice Ministers from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam met today to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministers Responsible for Trade.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed the balanced outcome and the strategic and economic significance of the TPP highlighting its principles and high standards as a way to promote regional economic integration, contribute positively to the economic growth prospects of its member countries, and create new opportunities for workers, families, farmers, businesses and consumers.
  • The Ministers agreed on the value of realizing the TPP's benefits and to that end, they agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high quality Agreement into force expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories.
  • The Ministers tasked their senior trade officials to engage to take forward the preparation of this assessment. Ministers asked for this work to be completed before they meet in the margins of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting on 10-11 November 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam.
  • The Ministers also underlined their vision for the TPP to expand to include other economies that can accept the high standards of the TPP.
  • These efforts would address our concern about protectionism, contribute to maintaining open markets, strengthening the rules-based international trading system, increasing world trade, and raising living standards.

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