Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries have reached an agreement on the "core elements" of the TPP trade pact, even with the US staying out of the deal. At the same time, Canada warned there was more work ahead.
The representatives of the 11 Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Mexico, have agreed to push ahead toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The decision comes after days of tense negotiations on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam.
In a joint statement early on Saturday, the trade ministers said they were "pleased to announce that they have agreed on the core elements" of the major trade deal, which aimed to slash tariffs across the Pacific region.
The basic agreement would maintain "the high standards, overall balance and integrity of the TPP while ensuring the commercial and other interests of all participants," they said.
The statement marks an important breakthrough for the deal, which was on the brink of collapsing after President Donald Trump announced the United States would be leaving the pact earlier this year. While the US championed the TPP under former President Barack Obama, Trump said such deals are unfair to his country. Trump restated his criticism at the leaders' summit in Vietnam on Friday.
"We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore," he said.
'Some work to be done'
Canada, however, voiced its reservations during the latest talks, insisting on environmental and labor protection. Late on Thursday, Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that a basic deal was achieved, but this was quickly disputed by Canada's representative Francois-Philippe Champagne.
While Champagne backed the joint statement on Saturday, he also warned that Canada will "not be rushed" into a potentially bad deal.
"We are pleased that progress is being made towards a possible agreement, but there is still some work to be done. Our priority is to ensure that it is the right deal for Canadian workers and businesses," he said.
A press conference was scheduled later on Saturday.
dj/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)