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TPP 11 Takes Another Major Step Forward in Moving on Without US

The agreement formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been resurrected and it now goes by the name Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Though it had been widely assumed the TPP would be left for dead after the U.S. removed itself from the trade deal in January, the remaining 11 nations are dedicated to getting something out of all the years that went into negotiating the first deal, and last week they agreed on a framework to move forward with.

Ministers from the TPP 11—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam—met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam last week and agreed on key aspects of the CPTPP pact.

“Ministers are pleased to announce that they have agreed on the core elements of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP),” a joint statement noted. “Ministers agree that the CPTPP maintains the high standards, overall balance and integrity of the TPP while ensuring the commercial and other interests of all participants and preserving our inherent right to regulate, including the flexibility of the parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities.”

The group has agreed to incorporate provisions of the TPP, with the exception of certain provisions that will be suspended, some of which are related to express delivery, telecommunication disputes and investment.

Now it remains for each country to pursue its own domestic processes while officials work on things like finalizing items where there’s still not consensus, and legally verifying and translating the finalized text in preparation to be signed.

“The substance is something all the TPP countries can agree on,” Japan’s trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, according to the Japan Times. “This will send a very strong message to the U.S. and the other countries in the region.”

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The U.S., however, appeared to be sending a strong message of its own just one day earlier.

In his speech at the APEC meeting, President Trump slammed multilateral trade deals and what they’ve done for the U.S. Carrying out his America First promise, Trump said the U.S. will compete on a “fair and equal basis” and that it won’t allow itself to be taken advantage of.

“I will make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and that will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade. What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible,” the president said.

For now it seems CPTPP is forging its path forward irrespective of the U.S. position—and despite Canada’s perceived stalling.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau missed a leaders’ meeting on TPP last week, which came just days after Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t be rushed into a deal that didn’t meet its own interests. Though some said he deliberately skipped the meeting, the country’s Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne said a scheduling mix-up was to blame for Trudeau’s absence and that Canada remains interested in seeing progress on the CPTPP.

Some of Canada’s hold-ups, according to Champagne, have to do with environment and labor rights.

In a tweet Monday, Trudeau said: “On the TPP trade deal: We’ve been working hard on it this week in Asia, and we’re going to keep negotiating until we get the best agreement possible for Canadian workers & businesses. We won’t sign it until that happens.”