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TPP countries agree to move ahead with trade pact without US

TPP countries agree to move ahead with trade pact without US

Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to USA involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.

The heads of the 11 countries that have been negotiating a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership had planned to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' summit in Danang, Vietnam.

"We have overcome the hardest part", Vietnam's trade minister, Tran Tuan Anh, told a news conference.

But negotiators from all countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Canada, held further talks on Friday night.

The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totaled $356 billion previous year.

The TPP countries agreed Friday to suspend controversial provisions from the original TPP deal related to intellectual property. "The overall impact on most firms is quite modest", said Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Centre think-tank, adding that the new version was "essentially identical to the original document".

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has infuriated leaders of 10 other Asia-Pacific countries by pulling a sudden "no show" for the signing of a lucrative trade deal.

Reuters said a statement was due to be made today, and it marked "a successful conclusion to talks in Vietnam", which at one stage had looked headed for failure amid resistance by Canada.

Canada, which has the second-biggest economy among remaining TPP countries after Japan, had said it wanted to ensure an agreement that would protect jobs.

The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the USA, the biggest economy and, before Trump took office, one of its most assertive supporters.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said that on Thursday night it had appeared all Canada's issues had been resolved to its satisfaction.

"I'm not going to speculate on what other countries might say", Chrystia Freeland said when asked about the allegations that Canada is holding up the TPP.

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In spite of the Canadian curve-ball for the working trade deal, the progress offers new hope in the absence of the United States' support.

Chinese President Xi Jinping used the same forum to stress multilateralism and said globalisation was an irreversible trend.

Japanese leaders want to shield its politically powerful agricultural sector from liberalization demands that are potentially harsher than those agreed under the TPP, but political analysts say the Trump administration is likely to step up calls for a bilateral free trade agreement, and the tough demands it will bring, regardless of the TPP's future.

He said all trade arrangements in the region should promote openness and inclusiveness, with no "exclusive clubs". Under the original TPP, in order for a vehicle to enter Canada tariff-free, 45 per cent of it must have originated in a TPP member nation (auto parts themselves must have a regional content value of 35 to 45 per cent). The two trade deals are not mutually exclusive, and some countries would be members of both.

"The reality is that showing we are in the process of diversifying our economic interests helps us in the NAFTA negotiations", he said. The release of a set of ministerial agreements early Saturday suggested the leaders would finesse any disagreements, as usual, to demonstrate unity and avoid embarrassing their hosts.

A reference to strengthening the multilateral trading system was dropped.

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