Canada, Mexico ask to join pan-Pacific trade talks

Sun Nov 13, 2011 6:51pm EST
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By Rachelle Younglai and Pablo Garibian

HONOLULU (Reuters) - Canada and Mexico want to join talks to forge a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region, giving a significant boost to the U.S.-led initiative to foster economic growth by tearing down trade barriers.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, said earlier it would like to join.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday he was encouraged to take part by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We looked at the outline of the criteria set by the partnership and they are all criteria that Canada can easily meet. So it is something we're interested in moving forward on," Harper said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of 21 nations in Hawaii.

A Mexican official told Reuters his government would ask on Sunday to join the talks.

The proposed Transpacific Partnership pact now includes nine countries -- the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile and Peru -- that have committed to what they call a "high-standard" trade agreement.

They must approve new applicants. The TPP goal is to complete a detailed framework in 2012 and adding new members could slow the timetable.

Japan strengthened the significance of the talks on Friday when it expressed its interest in joining the pact, which analysts see as important to ensuring the United States maintains a strong economic presence in the region as China continues to rise.   Continued...