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