Nov 13, 2017 | 21:40 GMT

2 mins read

Asia-Pacific: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Weakly Rises From Near Death

Forecast Update

In Stratfor's 2017 Fourth-Quarter Forecast we wrote that the remaining 11 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would try to move forward after the United States abruptly departed the trade agreement in January. Without the assurances of U.S. involvement, however, TPP members will be less likely to make generous concessions.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not dead yet. The day after Canada skipped a high-profile signing meeting on Nov. 9, it joined the 10 other TPP member states to sign a framework for the deal, formally rebranding it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Twenty key parts of the original deal, however, have been suspended, including provisions related to biological products, medical devices, telecommunications and investment.

There are four remaining key points of contention that must be resolved before the deal can be formally signed. Three of the points pertain to prospective Southeast Asian members Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, which is not unexpected considering that TPP was partly intended to incentivize these smaller economies to make tough reforms. The fourth point relates to Canada, and specifically to Ottawa's desire to protect Canadian cultural products such as film, television and print. Discussions about cultural exemptions played a role in both the 2016 Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the 1987 Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, which formed the basis for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The key issue at stake is the Canadian government's ability to balance its national interests with provincial pushback.

In the past, Canada's dairy sector has opposed trade negotiations, including TPP negotiations, so it's noteworthy that no agricultural provisions were suspended or identified as potential roadblocks. This fact, however, doesn't mean that the question is settled considering that Canada's biggest will try to impose controversial dairy quotas, which won't be raised until more advanced talks.

The countries most motivated to sign an agreement, particularly Japan and Australia, have managed to keep the pact alive since the United States abandoned it in January. But negotiators have always known that they must push the deal through quickly if they hope to have a deal at all. Member countries are aiming to sign the TPP — now CPTPP — in its reduced form early next year, but the delay doesn't bode well for meeting that self-imposed deadline or for the deal's future.

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