Push to save TPP pact

Lesotho Times - - International -

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

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