Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive for a joint press conference in Ottawa on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The leaders of Canada and Japan on Sunday jointly trumpeted the virtues of the revived Pacific trade pact that came into effect at the start of the year – without the United States.

In a bid to counter China’s growing economic influence, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) removed trade barriers among 11 countries representing nearly 500 million consumers in the Asia-Pacific region.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2017 before it was ratified.

At a joint press conference in Ottawa, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the agreement has “benefitted tremendously” citizens and businesses of member nations, including Canada and Japan.

“Continuing to move forward on freer and more open trade according to the rules that we can all agree on is something that we need more in the world,” Trudeau said.

The CPTPP “stands in stark contrast” to rising protectionism sparked by the United States, he said, noting that Canadian beef exports to Japan have tripled in recent months “while the Americans do not have that kind of access.”

He said, “I think that – concretely and tangibly – is a contrast that highlights the benefits of countries working together and not falling back on protectionism as a way of growing our economy.”

His comments were echoed by Abe, who said it “should be a model going forward.” Canada and Japan aim to increase membership in the CPTPP, he added.

In the meantime, Abe said his countrymen were enjoying more “high-quality Canadian products” under the pact. “And vice-versa I have high hopes for further expansion of the export of Japanese high-quality products to the Canadian market.”

Canada reached a deal last year with the United States and Mexico on a new continental trade pact, while talks between Japan and the United States to carve out a trade deal are underway.

– with reporting by AFP

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