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Trade ministers agree Asia-Pacific trade pact without US

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13th-Nov-2017       
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AFP, Vietnam  :
Ministers from 11 Asia-Pacific countries agreed Saturday to press ahead with a major trade deal without the United States, as the world's largest economy seeks to go it alone under President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.
Trump pulled his country from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the start of the year, dismaying allies and casting into doubt an agreement heralded for tying lower tariffs to strong environmental and labour protections.
He has been something of a lone protectionist voice at the APEC summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang where world leaders, including China's Xi Jinping, have been keen to promote the virtues of free trade and multilateral deals.
In a joint statement Saturday morning, the remaining countries-dubbed the TPP-11 -- said they had "agreed on the core elements" of a deal at the sidelines of the APEC summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang, after days of stalled talks raised fears it could collapse altogether.
The ministers said further talks would be needed to reach a full consensus before inking the deal, which now carries an even longer official name-the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Japan's lead negotiator Toshimitsu Motegi said the remaining members would still welcome the United States back into their pact.
"This time all the 11 countries are on board and this would send out a very strong positive message to the United States and other Asia Pacific countries in the region," he said.
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's trade minister, described the breakthrough in a tweet as "big progress".
Canada had held out to maintain environmental and labour protections linked to freer markets in the deal.
Those elements were thrown into jeopardy by America's sudden withdrawal from the deal earlier this year.
Canada had dug in over those progressive clauses. But they are much less attractive to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Peru now that the carrot of access to the huge US market has been pulled.
Trump's election has upended years of American-led moves to open up global trade.

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