The 11 counties remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. pulled out of the deal began new talks Tuesday in Canada to define next steps, while civil society groups against the agreement urged leaders to keep the trade pact dead and buried.
Senior trade officials were set to meet in Toronto to explore the future of the trade deal without the U.S. and in the face of rising suspicion of multilateral deals. The event is also set in preparation for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of trade ministers in Vietnam.
Canada's International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in Ottawa on Monday that hosting the meeting "shows that Canada is front and center when it comes to trade in the Asia-Pacific region,” Bloomberg News reported.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government previously said it would try to sell more of its products to Asia. It is viewed as Trudeau’s response to the latest disputes with President Donald Trump’s administration over TPP and NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
As the largest economy remained in the deal, Japan also aims to take the lead.
“Japan is willing to assume a leading role to help the (remaining) 11 countries unite and find a direction,” Keiichi Katakami, Japan’s Chief Negotiator for the talks, said to reporters before leaving for Canada.
The Japanese government has also reportedly built up a system to coordinate and communicate between the ministries involved in the TPP negotiations. Japan hopes the talk will ensure that tariffs and trade rules remain intact.
But the TPP has been harshly criticized for the lack of public participation because it was negotiated behind closed doors. The deal also raised serious questions about its impact on employment and the environment.
“Even without the U.S., other countries are trying to revive the dubious legacy of the TPP,” National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians Maude Barlow said in a statement. “It’s time they got the message: People are tired of these agreements, and we must do better.”
The TPP trade deal was negotiated by former U.S. President Barack Obama that covers 40 percent of world’s economy. It was signed by all 12 countries in 2015, but was never approved by the U.S. Congress.
In January, President Trump signed an executive order formally withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. Trump called the move a "great thing for the American worker.”