The Japanese government is picking up the pace on reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment deal, with talks scheduled next month among the 11 countries left in the pact after the withdrawal by the US after the election of president Donald Trump.
The move has sparked alarm among anti-TPP activists, who believed the agreement between 12 Asia-Pacific economies would be abandoned once the US had left it.
Trade ministers, including New Zealand's Todd McClay, are due to meet in Hanoi on the sidelines of an APEC trade ministers' summit on May 21 and 22, and trade officials are scheduled to meet on the TPP-11 project in Canada on May 2 and 3 to try and map out a process for reviving the deal, according to international media reports.
The Nikkei Asian Review reported Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, as saying the remaining participants would "begin talks on implementing the deal in May" during a speech in New York.
Auckland University law professor and a leading campaigner against the TPP, Jane Kelsey, warned in a statement that "if Todd McClay commits New Zealand to this path, he will guarantee that the TPPA becomes an election issue".
A key issue, if TPP is to be resuscitated without US involvement, will be the likely push by many signatories to renegotiate elements of the original pact that were inserted as a result of US demands.
The 11 remaining signatories are Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, Malaysia and Peru.