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Trudeau government considers “coalition of the willing” with 11-remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership countries

Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This morning, The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada is searching for a new ‘coalition of the willing’ to forge trade links in Asia following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the new Trade Minister says. …Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a recent interview that he will explore ‘whether there is the possibility to pursue something on the multilateral level with the coalition of the willing or bilaterally’. The work on that begins in three weeks when Mr. Champagne travels to Chile for talks with the 11 remaining TPP countries, as well as two significant countries not in the pact – China and South Korea.”

Champagne travelled to New Zealand and Australia to “initiate the brainstorming of what’s next” in advance of the meeting in Chile on March 14-15.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently stated, “While Australia is disappointed by the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are continuing to talk to the other signatories, including Canada, about how we can use the work that has been done to capture the TPP’s enormous economic and strategic benefits.”

And New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has recently commented, “In the case of TPP, I think there is a sense there that among the reaming eleven countries, it would be quite beneficial for Australia and New Zealand to show some confidence that this could be moved forward.”

Champagne refused to directly answer a question posed in Sydney this week if the TPP has a future without the United States. While Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has stated the TPP “cannot happen without the United States being a party to it”, Canada has not formally withdrawn from the deal.

There have also been reports that China could replace the US in the TPP.

But ZDNet reports, “The Chinese government expressed unwillingness to join the TPP earlier this month, instead favouring its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal.”

The 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam – and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements with – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. RCEP would cover goods, services, and investment, as well as competition, intellectual property rights, and dispute settlement.

At this point, RCEP includes seven of the twelve TPP signatories: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam.

ZDNet adds, “New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Australia, Peru, and Malaysia have all signalled continued conversations and negotiations with the remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership nations to consider ratification [of the TPP], as well as examining RCEP or other trade deals with China.”

To call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trade Minister Champagne to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the March 14-15 meeting in Chile, please go to our online action alert here.