Pacific Rim countries met in Vietnam last week to hammer out the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an Obama-era trade deal that aimed to open trade between the US and the Pacific Rim nations.
President Trump pulled the US out of the TPP in January, and the remaining 11 countries are now trying to renegotiate it.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised he would not cave to “pressure” from the other nations, is making headlines after he failed to attend a leaders’ meeting that some parties believed was a signing ceremony.
The move has been widely interpreted as a message that Canada isn’t afraid to walk away from the table, but Trudeau insists the meeting was cancelled following a previous meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “The scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Abe…went long, we obviously had a lot to talk about, and at the end of the meeting it became clear it was in everyone’s interest to postpone the meeting on TPP11,” said Trudeau.
Whether or not staying out of the meeting was a strategy, it did yield results. Late Friday, TPP trade ministers agreed to changes in areas Canada had been pushing for, such as cultural industries, rules of origin (in terms of auto manufacturing), and the suspension of IP provisions from the original TPP.
Countries like New Zealand, Japan, and Australia were disappointed by the summit's results, but Trudeau has rightly suggested that no deal is better than a bad deal.
“I wasn’t going to be rushed into a deal that was not yet in the best interest of Canadians," said Trudeau. "That is what I’ve been saying at least for a week, and I’ve been saying it around TPP12 for years now and that position continues to hold."
Agreement on TPP11 is still a possibility, but we shouldn't expect to see a signing ceremony any time soon.
Editor's note: I haven't actually read the text of the TPP, but I think it is good policy to reject any agreement put together by the Obama administration. His judgment just seems to always fall short.