Re­main­ing TPP states seen reaf­firm­ing com­mit­ment to pact

New Straits Times - - Business -

HANOI/TOKYO: Re­main­ing mem­bers of the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) free-trade agree­ment are work­ing on a state­ment to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to it de­spite the with­drawal of the United States, said sources close to the dis­cus­sions.

Talks are hap­pen­ing on the side­lines of an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (Apec) meet­ing, the big­gest trade gath­er­ing since US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump up­ended the world or­der with his “Amer­ica First” pol­icy.

The com­pet­ing vi­sions are ev­i­dent at this week­end’s Apec meet­ing of min­is­ters from coun­tries that ac­count for well over 40 per cent of world trade.

While new US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer will hold bi­lat­eral talks with key coun­tries, China will be push­ing its favoured Asian trade agree­ment as it puts it­self for­ward as a global free trade cham­pion.

Mean­while, Ja­pan is lead­ing the coun­tries that still want to go ahead with a much more com­pre­hen­sive TPP agree­ment, a deal Trump ditched in one of his first acts in of­fice and which does not in­clude China.

Sources close to the dis­cus­sions said the so-called TPP-11 states — the 11 mem­bers left after the US with­drew — were plan­ning a state­ment to­mor­row that would say they were com­mit­ted to mov­ing ahead with TPP.

“There will be two main points: 1. To aim for an early en­try into force of the TPP-11, 2. To bear in mind an en­vi­ron­ment where a sig­na­tory coun­try can re­turn,” said one source close to the dis­cus­sions.

Among the chal­lenges is keep­ing on board Viet­nam and Malaysia, who would have been big ben­e­fi­cia­ries from the agree­ment if it in­cluded the US.

Ja­pan is still hope­ful that the US can be brought back to the agree­ment. But rene­go­ti­at­ing the ex­ist­ing North Amer­ica Free Trade Agree­ment is a big­ger im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity for Wash­ing­ton. Reuters

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