Push to save TPP pact
SYDNEY — Several countries have expressed hope that the Trans-pacific Partnership could be salvaged, after President Donald Trump’s decision on a U.S. withdrawal from the trade pact left its future in serious jeopardy.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged Trump’s move was a massive blow to the 12-nation agreement, but suggested other countries, such as China, may help fill the void left by the U.S.
“Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that,” Turnbull told reporters. “But we are not about to walk away from our commitment to Australian jobs.”
As expected, Trump used one of his first actions in office to officially abandon the trade deal on Monday, dubbing it a detriment to American businesses. He favors one-onone agreements with other nations over multinational pacts.
Leaders of some of the 11 other nations involved in the initiative earlier said they would move forward with the agreement in some form, with or without the U.S.
Turnbull said he had discussed the pact’s future recently with the prime ministers of Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, all TPP members, and believed the pact could survive without the U.S.
Other TPP members are Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
“All of us are working to see how we can ensure we maintain this momentum toward open markets and free trade,” Turnbull said. “Believe me, protectionism is not a ladder to get you out of the low growth trap. It is a shovel to dig it deeper.”
The U.S. about-face on the deal is a setback for leaders of other TPP countries who invested political capital in fighting to get it ratified.
Whatever the deal’s fate, the region shows no sign of retreating from the market-opening trend that helped transform its many developing nations into a relatively stable zone of affluent, middle-income economies.
The greater concern is the uncertainty generated by Trump’s threats to impose tariffs of up to 45 percent on some imports. The U.S. is the largest single market for China and Japan, and indirectly a huge source of demand for many of the commodities and goods produced across the region.
Closing U.S. doors to trade may well backfire, said Ong.
“The U.S. was the one encouraging free trade,” Ong said. “Suddenly, it is now trying to stop it. There’s a possibility this would trigger retaliation by a number of other countries.” — AP