Tuesday | November 21, 2017
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Asia-Pacific forum sticks to free-trade gospel despite Trump

DANANG, Vietnam — An annual Pacific Rim summit is sticking with its tradition of promoting free trade and closer regional ties, shrugging off President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach.

The leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum said Saturday that they had recommitted to fighting protectionism and “all unfair trade practices.” They also expressed support for multi-country institutions and regional as well as country-to-country trade agreements.

Trade ministers from 11 of the Pacific Rim countries announced an agreement on pushing ahead with a free-trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose destiny had been cast into doubt after Trump pulled the U.S. out.

Efforts to get an agreement on how to proceed without the U.S. stumbled at the last moment, with leaders unable to formally endorse the proposal. But trade ministers announced a preliminary deal, with some details to be worked out later.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that environmental protection, labor rights, gender issues and the auto industry were areas needing work, though he did not go into specifics.

“We got a lot of work done, but there is still more work to do,” Trudeau said.

The revisions required for the 11 remaining TPP countries to continue talks required a difficult balance between high standards and pragmatism, said Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

“The substance is something all the TPP countries can agree on,” said Motegi. “This will send a very strong message to the U.S. and the other countries in the region.”

Trudeau said his unexpected absence from a TPP leaders’ meeting on Friday, which caused consternation among his fellow leaders and confusion about Canada’s stance, stemmed from an extra-long meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“We were not ready to close the TPP 11 yesterday,” he said.


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