China can as­sume man­tle

> US pull­out from TPP will open way for Bei­jing to take lead­ing role on trade in Asia Pa­cific

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

TOKYO/SYD­NEY: An Asia-Pa­cific trade deal stands al­most no chance of work­ing now that US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has pulled the plug on it, pro­po­nents of the pact said yes­ter­day, open­ing the way for China to as­sume the lead­er­ship man­tle on trade.

Ja­pan and Aus­tralia ex­pressed their com­mit­ment to the pact yes­ter­day, hours af­ter Trump vowed to with­draw from the 12na­tion Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) on his first day in of­fice, call­ing the deal “a po­ten­tial dis­as­ter for our coun­try.”

Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion ap­peared to snuff out any hopes for the deal, a sig­na­ture trade ini­tia­tive of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, five years in the mak­ing and meant to cover 40% of the world econ­omy.

The TPP, which aims to cut trade bar­ri­ers in some of Asia’s fastest-grow­ing economies and stretch from Canada to Viet­nam, can’t take ef­fect with­out the United States. It re­quires the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of at least six coun­tries ac­count­ing for 85% of the com­bined gross do­mes­tic prod­uct of the mem­ber na­tions.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said “the TPP would be mean­ing­less with­out the United States”, even as par­lia­ment con­tin­ued de­bat­ing rat­i­fi­ca­tion and his govern­ment vowed to lobby other mem­bers to ap­prove it.

Yet even with­out US rat­i­fi­ca­tion, the TPP won’t just die, a se­nior Ja­panese of­fi­cial said.

“It just con­tin­ues in a state of not be­ing in ef­fect,” said Shin­pei Sasaki of the Cab­i­net Of­fice’s TPP head­quar­ters. “In the fu­ture if the United States takes the pro­ce­dures and it passes Congress, that would sat­isfy the pro­vi­sions and the TPP would go into ef­fect.”

Other mem­bers of the 12-na­tion group­ing could con­ceiv­ably work around a US with­drawal.

Aus­tralian Trade Min­is­ter Steven Ciobo told re­porters in Can­berra coun­tries could push ahead with the TPP with­out the US by amend­ing the agree­ment and pos­si­bly adding new mem­bers.

“We could look at, for ex­am­ple, if China or In­done­sia or an­other coun­try wanted to join, say­ing, ‘Yes, we open the door for them sign­ing up to the agree­ment as well’.”

But Sin­ga­pore’s Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong said re­open­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions wouldn’t be easy. “If you sign a fresh agree­ment, you have to go through it again. We haven’t crossed that bridge yet. We’ll cross it if and when we come to that.” – Reuters

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