TPP ministers head to Vietnam to debate pact's fate
Japan aims to drum up support for implementing trade deal without US
TOKYO -- Negotiators and ministers from Trans-Pacific Partnership countries are set to begin deciding the future of the trade pact without the U.S.
Nobuteru Ishihara, Japan's economic revitalization minister, spoke with reporters on Friday morning before leaving for weekend meetings in Vietnam. "We'll strive to clearly show that we are in agreement on implementing the TPP early," Ishihara said at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
Lead negotiators are scheduled to meet on Saturday, followed by a meeting of ministers on Sunday. This will be the first ministerial-level meeting on pressing ahead with the Pacific-rim trade deal, which was left with 11 members after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in January.
Ishihara's mission is to build support among the remaining participants, now known as the TPP11, for putting the pact into effect as is. Tokyo and New Zealand want to maintain the terms that were agreed upon before the U.S. pulled out, but the prospects for doing so are unclear.
Vietnam and Malaysia may resist moving forward without changes, Ishihara suggested, because they only reluctantly agreed to relax their regulations in exchange for better U.S. market access.
"Some of the countries made various concessions with the U.S. market in mind," Ishihara said. "We're not going to rule out any potential option, and I hope to exchange candid views to find out what will best suit everybody."
Ishihara is scheduled to meet with representatives of each country one by one, to try to get them on board with Japan's ideas.
The ministers are expected to draft a joint statement, to be released after their meeting.