January 23, 2018 / 9:08 AM / in 5 months

Trans-Pacific trade pact, without U.S., to be signed in March: Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Eleven countries aiming to forge an Asia-Pacific trade pact after the United States pulled out of an earlier version will sign an agreement in Chile in March, Japan’s economy minister said on Tuesday, in a big win for Tokyo.

Trade officials had been meeting in Tokyo to resolve rifts including Canada’s insistence on protections for its cultural industries such as movies, TV and music.

An agreement is a win for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been lobbying hard to save the pact, originally called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In one of his first acts as U.S. president in January 2017, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the original 12-nation treaty.

Abe has painted the deal as a spur to growth and reform in Japan and a symbol of commitment to free and multilateral trade at a time when Trump stresses “America First” policies.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the agreement the “right deal”.

Canada’s trade minister said in a statement it included an improved arrangement on autos with Japan and the suspension of intellectual property provisions that had been a concern.

The timing of the deal is significant for Canada, which is trying to diversify its exports. U.S., Canadian and Mexican negotiators opened a key week-long round of talks to modernize NAFTA on Tuesday.

The U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) expressed concern the pact could put overseas demand for U.S. wheat “at serious risk,” saying Japan imports an average of 3.1 million tonnes of wheat from the United States a year.

After TPP-11 is fully implemented Japanese import tariffs on Canadian and Australian wheat would fall by some $65 per tonne, they said in a statement.

“If nothing else, this announcement should serve as a rallying cry for farmers, ranchers and dairy producers calling for the new trade deals we were promised when the president walked away from TPP,” said NAWG’s president Gordon Stoner.

Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), or TPP-11, would be an “engine to overcome protectionism” emerging in parts of the world.

He added Japan would explain the importance of the deal to Washington in hopes of persuading it to join.

Ministers from the 11 countries, including Japan, Australia and Canada, agreed in November on core elements to move ahead without the United States, but demands by countries including Canada for measures to ensure the deal protects jobs blocked a final agreement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week the new agreement would leave a door open for eventual U.S. participation.

Canada, which wanted protection of its cultural industries, and Vietnam, which has worried about labor protection rules, will exchange separate side letters with other members on those topics at the time of the signing, Motegi said.

Japanese Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi attends a news conference on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting during APEC 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Singapore, David Ljunggren and Anthony Esposito in Montreal and Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and James Dalgleish

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