TPP countries agree to keep trade deal alive, much work remains

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A motorcycle passes a banner near the venue of the Apecsummit in Danang November 9, 2017.

On the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, the eleven countries trying to negotiate the TPP have agreed on the "core elements" of the trade deal, but some contentious areas - including culture and dispute settlement - were set aside for further negotiation.

Canada and the 10 other Trans-Pacific Partnership countries reached an agreement on Friday on "core elements" of the free trade pact, pledging to adhere to strict labour and environment standards, hours after the talks almost collapsed earlier in the day.

But while Japan has been lobbying hard for a quick agreement to move ahead, Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia are among countries that have appeared less enthusiastic to hurry. Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan's economy minister, told reporters a ministerial agreement had been reached.

She said she was left with the impression that Canada had withdrawn from the negotiations. It also has provisions for protecting everything from labour rights to the environment to intellectual property - one of the main sticking points.

Any kind of TPP deal looked in doubt earlier in the week after officials said Vietnam's chief negotiator had walked out of one round of talks and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then skipped a leaders' meeting on the pact.

"We are constructive, we are even creative at the table".

The dramas over Canada are not related to the weird events of last night in which the TPP deal was declared done by trade ministers, including Canada's Trade Minister, but Vietnam then objected to a particular issue.

The challenge for Canada and Mexico is that both TPP nations are also in the middle of renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement with the Americans, meaning that numerous same issues are in play at the two separate negotiating tables.

Among options being discussed by TPP countries is whether to suspend some provisions of the original agreement to avoid having to renegotiate it and potentially to entice the United States back in the long term, officials said.

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