Talks on pushing ahead the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal without the United States have reached a critical point as ministers from the 11 countries discuss a proposed agreement in principle. David Pollard reports.
Danang, Vietnam: APEC leaders gather from eleven countries. Including a new prime minister for one of them. Though New Zealand isn't alone in hoping for a TPP breakthrough. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN TRADE MINISTER STEVE CIOBO SAYING: "We've got more work to do. We are inching closer to an agreement, so we remain very hopeful." What exactly the right agreement may be is yet to be made clear. And while Japan is lobbying for quick progress, New Zealand and Malaysia appear less enthusiastic to rush talks at a critical point. Others too. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE, FRANCOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE SAYING: "This is not about speed, this is about outcome. I've said to my colleague, this isn't about Friday, but this is about the next decade." The elephant not in the room is Donald Trump. Though on Friday he will be - along with the other big APEC beasts, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China. At stake is a 356 billion dollar trade bloc that aims to ditch tariffs on industrial and farm products. The big question is whether they can achieve that without the US. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PANMURE GORDON CHIEF ECONOMIST, SIMON FRENCH, SAYING: "I don't think the US pulling out of that is something that will destroy the future of a TPP, but what it does illustrate in the current background to separatist movements, nationalistic interests, is that pinning your hopes on a quick resolution of trade deals doesn't have many international precedents. I don't think TPP will be a quick one." Even, that is, if APEC makes concessions to try to draw the US back in. One option, officials say, that is under discussion.