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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive at Narashino exercise field in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, Japan January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

(reuters_tickers)

TOKYO (Reuters) - Australia and Japan are committed to signing an Asia Pacific trade deal by March with countries in the region ready to forge a pact to replace the derailed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday

"Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe and I are personally committed to having this deal signed and sealed by March," Turnbull said during a speech in Tokyo.

Eleven countries met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam last November to keep alive a Trans Pacific trade deal after U.S. President Donald Trump in early 2017 announced that the United States was withdrawing in the name of protecting U.S. jobs.

Ministers from the 11 countries including Japan, Australia and Canada agreed on core elements to move ahead without the United States, but demands by countries including Canada for measures to ensure the deal protects jobs, remain a sticking point to finalising the pact.

"Our strong preference is for all 11 countries to join the first wave but our focus is on bringing a new TPP agreement into force as soon as possible with those who are ready to move," Turnbull said.

Chief negotiators will meet in Tokyo next week in hopes of smoothing out the obstacles to signing the agreement, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The new agreement will leave a door open for eventual U.S. participation Turnbull added.

"We are consciously setting it up to enable and encourage the United States to dock in should it choose to do so in the future," he said.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Reuters