Japan Urges TPP Partners to Sign Pact Before Elections

Nations working to salvage a mammoth Pacific-rim trade pact that the U.S. abandoned need to move forward before electoral politics get in the way, according to Japan’s chief negotiator.

“Next year various countries have elections, there’ll be movements in governments,” Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday in an interview in Tokyo. “Considering this, we ought to get it signed quickly before then.”

While Motegi didn’t cite any specific member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or provide a time frame, Malaysia must hold an election by mid-2018 and Mexico is set to go to the polls in July next year.

Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister of economy, speaks during an interview in Tokyo on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

Photographer: Takaaki Iwabu/Bloomberg

Yet not all countries are so keen to move fast, with Canada in particular arguing for a quality agreement over a quick one. Discussions over exemptions for Canada’s cultural goods and services need to be finalized before any deal is signed and details concerning state-owned enterprises and trade sanctions also need to be worked out.

“The cultural exception item came up abruptly from Canada at the last minute,” said Motegi, referring to talks that took place in Vietnam earlier this month. He added that what constitutes a cultural exception hasn’t been defined with each country.

Canada Challenge

“Canada will have to present the details of its thinking to each country and get their understanding,” he said. “I think it will take a lot of effort on the part of Canada.”

The U.S. withdrawal from the multilateral trade pact earlier this year greatly reduced the economic weight of the agreement, which would have covered 12 nations that together account for 40 percent of the global economy.

While the chances of the U.S. returning to the TPP any time soon are low, Motegi said Japan will continue trying to bring it back into the fold.

The remaining TPP-11 group has decided to freeze 20 items that were originally planned in the deal with the U.S. Those items are attractive to the U.S. and could potentially be reactivated as an incentive to bring it back to the agreement, according to Motegi.

He said on Nov. 14 after returning from TPP-11 talks in Vietnam that labor-related disputes and sanctions need to be discussed before a final sign-off, and that Japan intended to lead coordination between the member countries on this.

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