HANOI -- Ministers from the 11 remaining TPP countries will sit down together here on Sunday to discuss implementing the trade deal without the U.S.
But events on Saturday showed they remain at odds.
There is a major sticking point. Japan wants the joint statement that will be issued after today's meeting to clearly say the 11 countries will implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of the year.
In an effort to get such wording into the statement, Nobuteru Ishihara, Japan's minister of economic and fiscal policy, held one-on-one talks with his counterparts from nine of the 10 other nations. In each meeting, Ishihara pushed for issuing a statement saying a "TPP 11" will be implemented before 2018 rolls around.
Not all of Ishihara's counterparts felt the same, though.
The minister from Malaysia, which joined the original TPP negotiations in an attempt to gain greater access to the U.S., expressed reluctance to move ahead without the big American market.
Vietnam, Canada and Peru were also noncommittal.
The original TPP negotiations took years and finally concluded in February of 2016. But when Donald Trump became U.S. president four months ago, one of his first acts was to pull out of the deal.
Since then, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have been positive about going ahead without the U.S. A Japanese government source says "multiple" countries have called for concluding a "TPP 11" deal by November, when an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit will be held.
What the pro-TPP countries want is for the 11 remaining signatories to agree to new preconditions that would allow the pact to take effect without the U.S. -- then to quickly implement it.
The results of Ihihara's buttonholing, however, show the road ahead will be a difficult one.