Japan and Canada Free-Trade Talks Back on Front Burner

Without the U.S., the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely collapse, but other free-trade deals could be in works

Vancouver Sun
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March 15, 2016—A leading Japanese trade policy expert says there may finally be some progress toward a Canada-Japan free-trade agreement after years of inactivity, as both Ottawa and Tokyo shift focus away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Masahiro Kawai, the former chief economist for the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific region, spoke at UBC earlier this month on Japan’s trade policy after the TPP was reached last October. The 12-member trade agreement, which includes Canada, is awaiting ratification by each member state.

“With the TPP basically done—at least the negotiations of it—I think Tokyo will be spending more time on other [free-trade deals] and economic partnerships, including Japan-Canada,” he said during his visit to Vancouver. “I think Tokyo will be working on [various free-trade agreements] at the same time. So far, they’ve put so much effort into the TPP, other negotiations have slowed down.”

Negotiations for the Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement have been on hold since the last round of talks took place in Tokyo in November 2014. But Kawai said part of the reason for the stalled talks was because of the importance of the high-profile TPP and a realignment of Japan’s trade policy.

All eyes are now on Washington to see whether the U.S.—in the middle of a presidential election campaign—ratifies the deal. Without the Americans, the TPP will likely collapse, but Kawai said Tokyo remain optimistic.

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