Friday, 22 February, 2019

TPP countries keep trade deal alive without US

Nellie Chapman | 24 May, 2017, 02:57

But Reuters reported that turmoil over global trade negotiations was laid bare at the APEC summit when ministers failed to agree on their usual joint statement, after U.S. opposition to wording on free trade and fighting protectionism.

In a stormy first foray overseas for Robert Lighthizer, the new U.S. Trade Representative failed to get Asian and Pacific countries to back the Trump administration's "fair trade" agenda as the two sides disagreed over protectionism.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP soon after taking office in January, one of a few fulfilments of promises during his presidential campaigns as he championed "America First" trade policy and preferred bilateral free trade deals.

"We're willing to negotiate bilateral agreements with other partners in the world", Lighthizer said, but pledged the United States' commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and said regional trade played an important role in U.S. trade policy.

New Zealand's Trade Minister Todd McClay listens during the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday, May 22, 2017.

Eleven countries have agreed to expedite the signing of a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement despite the absence of the United States.

The TPP is called a "high quality" trade deal, meaning that it goes deeper than other free trade agreement in terms of terms of labour regulations, environmental rules, intellectual property protections and other requirements.

Some experts suggest the decision to revive the deal could be an effort to counter China's growing influence in the region.

Among representatives of the TPP countries, Paulina Nazal Aranda, general director of global economic affairs at Chile's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNBC on Sunday that the TPP-11 were united in the view that the pact was a good agreement. "That does not mean we will not engage in this region", Lighthizer told a news conference in Hanoi.

But the USA withdrawal has put major doubts over the future of the TPP agreement.

He noted that multi-lateral deals were always a "fruit salad" and there would be hurdles as each country would need to recalibrate their expectations for the U.S.'s absence from the deal.

"Australia and New Zealand have aligned with Japan in promoting quick implementation of the deal without the United States".

He added: "But we certainly expect to stay engaged and I believe that at some point that there'll be series of bilateral agreements with willing partners in this part of the world".

One major challenge being faced by the TPP-11 is keeping Vietnam and Malaysia on board.

Asked why the United States was against using language opposing protectionism, he said it favoured free trade, but would defend against unfair trade.

Mr Trump has argued that multilateral free-trade agreements are costing Americans jobs and that he wants to cut new deals.

The 11 TPP countries minus the United States have set out timetable by which decisions will be made on the future of the free trade agreement in November.