Remaining TPP states seen reaffirming commitment to pact
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