Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership were put on hold indefinitely on Friday after Canada was believed to have pulled out of the free trade pact unexpectedly.
The news was broken by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reporters at the APEC summit in Da Nang, right after a failed meeting.
No final conclusion on the TPP-11 pact had been reached, the official said, adding that she would not reveal the standpoint of any specific country when asked if there was any difference between Vietnam and the other sides.
TPP is a free trade agreement originally involving 12 member states of the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam.
It was expected to serve as a counterweight to China’s growing regional dominance.
However, the White House announced the United States’ withdrawal from the deal in January, leaving the remaining 11 members to adopt the new name of TPP-11 to continue negotiations without Washington.
The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totaled $356 billion last year, according to Reuters.
Canada said that they would not engage in the final meeting with the rest, PM Ardern told reporters, noting that she was not saying the country had formally withdrawn from the pact.
Negotiators were scheduled to discuss the terms and conditions of the accord on Friday afternoon, but Canada was understood not to attend the event.
PM Ardern confirmed that the meeting had not happened as planned.
The TPP-11 accord was reported to be finalized in principle on Thursday, when some ministers revealed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that they were happy with the negotiation then.
Canadian negotiators decided to pull out of the pact negotiation, which has taken a decade, after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau met privately with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Da Nang to discuss one issue, as understood by Tuoi Tre.
The TPP-11 negotiators joined another tense meeting on Thursday until 10:00 pm.
Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo walked out of the meeting room and said that all sides had reached in-principle consensus.
François-Philippe Champagne, Canadian Minister of International Trade, smiled but uttered no word.
Steven Ciobo, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, then proclaimed that they “had a very good meeting.”
Toshimitsu Motegi, Japanese Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization, also said in-principle agreement had been achieved following their meeting.
He added a formal announcement regarding this issue would be made on Friday.
But then François-Philippe Champagne said on Twitter, “Despite reports, there is no agreement in principle on TPP.”
No such an announcement has been issued so far.