DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday welcomed “a broad agreement” reached by the 11 countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), even as others in the trade pact disputed that any deal had been reached.
Trade ministers from the TPP countries met on Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Danang, Vietnam.
After the meeting, Japan said an agreement in principle had been reached, but the Canadian trade minister said on Twitter: “Despite reports, there is no agreement in principle on TPP.”
The spat highlighted the continuing challenge to reviving a pact whose survival was thrown into doubt when President Donald Trump ditched it, in one of his first acts in office, in favour of bilateral deal-making by the United States.
Abe told Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski that he welcomed a broad agreement reached at the TPP ministerial meeting, a written statement by the Japanese government said on Friday.
The Japanese leader told Kuczynski that Japan would like to continue cooperating closely with Peru, one of the TPP countries, so that the pact will go into effect at an early date.
Japan had lobbied hard to proceed with a pact after the U.S. withdrawal that could also help to contain China’s growing regional dominance.
The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion last year. It also has provisions for protecting everything from labour rights to the environment to intellectual property - one of the main sticking points.
Leaders of the 11 TPP countries are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon.
In a separate panel discussion at the APEC summit on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was “reasonably confident” a deal could be reached without the United States.
“We believe TPP is important for the region... The 11 countries led by Japan, we are trying to come up with our new version,” Najib said.
“I am reasonably confident. I am quite sanguine that we will get a deal but of course it has got to go through the process of ratification,” he said.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Borsuk