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New progress on TPP

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.

An agreement in principle on the Trans-Pacific Partnership appeared to inch closer to reality late Friday after a frenetic, confusing day of talks and media reports that bluntly blamed Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for helping to scuttle a scheduled meeting of leaders to discuss the Pacific Rim trade pact.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne summoned journalists just before midnight to say that the TPP trade ministers had agreed to a number of key changes that moved the talks closer to a deal. Canada is better off because of the new developments, Champagne said.

"We don't settle for just any deal," Champagne said, acknowledging Trudeau's decidedly downbeat comments from a day earlier. "If it takes one more day, so be it."

He said the TPP countries agreed to suspend controversial provisions from the original TPP deal related to intellectual property. Leaders in Canada's tech sector have long pressed Ottawa to have those elements removed from the deal.

Champagne also said the partners established a framework to deal with rules of origin issues related to the auto sector and on how the countries will proceed with including cultural exemptions into the treaty.

The parties also agreed, he added, to enhance elements in the pact related to the environment and are much closer to stronger protections of labour rights.


ORIGINAL 6:30 a.m.

Efforts to reach an agreement this weekend on a Pacific Rim trade pact appeared to collapse Friday when persistent concerns over the deal, including Canada's, forced the abrupt cancellation of a scheduled leaders' meeting.

Some international media quickly blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the meeting's sudden cancellation.

The heads of the 11 countries that have been negotiating a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership had planned to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' summit in Danang, Vietnam.

Trudeau did not go to the conference room at the scheduled time to meet the other TPP leaders.

However, the Prime Minister's Office insisted that the meeting was called off due to issues raised by Canada as well as some of the other parties. A spokeswoman said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the meeting's chair, cancelled the event after a 50-minute face-to-face discussion with Trudeau.

A report in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald said Trudeau "sabotaged" the talks at the last minute by failing to show up for the meeting. The New Zealand Herald reported that Trudeau's "no-show" had delayed TPP talks indefinitely. Canada's foreign affairs minister said Ottawa is still at the TPP negotiating table and it doesn't want to rush on such a complex deal.

"I'm not going to speculate on what other countries might say," Chrystia Freeland said when asked about the allegations that Canada is holding up the TPP.

She also suggested Canada wasn't the only one to blame for Friday's cancellation.

"There are a few countries who continue to have some important issues that they would like to be addressed," Freeland said.

Freeland refused to share details on Canada's concerns over the TPP, saying it was International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne's file. She added that he wasn't available to speak to reporters Friday because he was back at the TPP bargaining table with other trade ministers.

Heading into the APEC summit, some countries had expected an agreement on TPP.

The 11 remaining TPP countries have been working to revive the deal, which was abandoned earlier this year by U.S. President Donald Trump.



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