A quixotic TPP quest

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Af­ter US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump said last month he would with­draw his coun­try from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment on his first day in of­fice, Sin­ga­pore and Ja­pan, both mem­bers of the trade group, are join­ing hands to try and keep the deal alive. Dur­ing a meet­ing be­tween vis­it­ing Sin­ga­pore Pres­i­dent Tony Tan Keng Yam and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe on Thurs­day, the two lead­ers vowed to strive for the early en­try into force of the TPP even with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the United States.

The duo’s ef­forts are quixotic, for even Abe ad­mit­ted last month that “the TPP is mean­ing­less with­out the United States”.

It is also im­pos­si­ble, since according to its rules, the TPP can only come into force when it is rat­i­fied by six coun­tries that ac­count for at least 85 per­cent of the group’s eco­nomic out­put. With­out rat­i­fi­ca­tion by the US, whose econ­omy makes up 60 per­cent of the TPP’s eco­nomic weight, the deal in its cur­rent form is dead in the wa­ter.

The only pos­si­ble op­tion for Ja­pan and Sin­ga­pore to keep the deal alive is to amend the re­quire­ment clause for it to come into force. That means the re­main­ing mem­bers ex­clud­ing the US would have to hold fresh ne­go­ti­a­tions, which, as Sin­ga­pore Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong ad­mit­ted, would not be easy to do.

By try­ing to give the kiss of life to the TPP, Sin­ga­pore and Ja­pan can­not but raise eye­brows over their in­ten­tions. The trade deal, that was de­signed to ex­clude China, has long been deemed a geopo­lit­i­cal tool of the US de­signed to counter the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy’s in­flu­ence in the re­gion, which is why some have called it an “eco­nomic NATO”.

If Sin­ga­pore and Ja­pan really care about free trade, they should em­brace the in­clu­sive re­gional trade regime pro­posed by China two years ago.

For un­like the TPP, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific aims at en­sur­ing the open­ness that is the lifeblood of the re­gion’s econ­omy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.