By Hiroyuki Tanaka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterDA NANG, Vietnam — As Canada’s dissatisfaction with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement surfaced, disarray was exposed among the participating TPP countries.
An announcement of a broad agreement on the TPP by the leaders of Japan, Australia and nine other nations that had been planned for Friday has been called off.
On Friday afternoon, before the leaders were scheduled to meet, the Japanese negotiating team received shocking news. According to sources close to the talks, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau firmly told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he did not agree to the new pact.
Abe and Toshimitsu Motegi, minister in charge of economic revitalization, who had announced reaching a broad agreement after a ministerial meeting the day before, tried to convince Trudeau to change his mind, but he would not budge.
Up to this point, Canada had publicly been cooperative with Japan as the 11 nations negotiated toward a broad agreement. Yet after the ministerial meeting on Thursday, Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne threw Japanese officials into confusion by writing on his personal Twitter account, “Despite reports, there is no agreement in principle on the TPP.”
The Canadian side reportedly felt that items related to areas such as intellectual property and automobile trade were problematic.
Canada had a different administration when the first broad agreement on the TPP was reached in October 2015. Since the Trudeau administration has come to power, it has been more skeptical of the pact. The United States and Canada are currently renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and some people in Canada believe the NAFTA talks should be prioritized over rushing to reach a new TPP agreement, which the United States abandoned earlier this year.
Besides Canada, there are other smoldering issues. Vietnam had been counting on expanding its exports of textiles, a major industry there, to the United States, and was unhappy when the world’s largest economy dropped out. Malaysia, which has powerful state-run companies involved in natural gas and other developments, has called for revising rules in the original TPP that banned preferential treatment for state-run firms. New Zealand also has a new administration that has been cautious about the TPP. At one point the new government indicated it wanted parts of the pact changed.