Eleven nations, including New Zealand, agree to salvage Trans-Pacific Partnership
This comes after Trump signed an executive order in January withdrawing the USA from the trade agreement.
The statement was unanimously agreed to by the 11 countries at a meeting which New Zealand co-chaired with Vietnam on the sidelines of APEC in Hanoi.
New US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will have individual meetings with counterparts from some of Washington’s most important trading partners – in line with proposed bilateral deals that Trump argues can best protect American jobs.
But Trump’s newly-appointed trade chief Robert Lighthizer poured cold water on the prospect of a U.S. return, saying Washington “pulled out of the TPP and it’s not going to change that decision”.
The 11 remaining countries therefore reached an agreement to leave the way open for the United States to return to the originally 12-nation trade pact.
New Zealand, Australia and Japan worked behind-scenes on the sidelines of the APEC meeting to convince countries like Vietnam and Malaysia to agree to revive the TPP.
One day, the remaining members hope to bring the United States back too.
Mr. Lighthizer was due to meet about a dozen ministers there, a USA official said.
That’s because Australia already has access to the U.S. under its existing bilateral free trade agreement while a number of other TPP member countries will not have preferential access to the USA market.
Newly-appointed United States trade chief Robert Lighthizer attended the two-day gathering, where he was scheduled to meet one-on-one with several ministers, including from China, Canada and Mexico.
PACIFIC RIM trade ministers meeting in Vietnam vowed yesterday to press ahead with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact after the USA pulled out. One of the challenges for TPP minus USA is keeping Vietnam and Malaysia on board, states that signed on to the agreement largely because of the prospect of better access to the U.S. market.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe previously said that the TPP would be “meaningless” without the U.S.
A statement from Mr Lighthizer said free trade required the tackling of “trade-distorting measures” that have led to “massive United States trade imbalances” in the region – a possible reference to China’s trade surplus, which was almost $US350 billion in 2016.
Trade representatives agreed to help the United States rejoin the trade deal at any time, highlighting lingering hopes of a U-turn in US policy.
“The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to meet the leaders’ mandate for a swift conclusion of the RCEP negotiations”, the statement said.
It is unclear what a TPP would mean without access to US markets, a key draw for numerous countries that joined negotiations.
TPP ministers met on the side-lines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi on Sunday.
The Reagan-era trade veteran has been tasked with renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement – another deal Trump promised to pull out of, though he later backpedalled after speaking to the leaders of Canada and Mexico.
Main countries are China, Japan and South Korea, with which Trump wants to renegotiate a free trade deal.