Pacific ministers commit to move ahead with pact without US

May 24, 2017, 05:30
Pacific ministers commit to move ahead with pact without US

New Zealand's Trade Minister Todd McClay is mobbed by reporters at the end of the meeting of TPP11, gathering all Tran-Pacific Pact (TPP) member countries except for the US, held on the side-lines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, 21 May 2017.

"The Pacific Rim trade ministers meeting in Vietnam have committed to move ahead with the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact after the United States pulled out".

New Zealand's top trade official said his country wouldn't gain much from major changes to a Pacific trade pact, highlighting obstacles to finalizing the deal without the United States after Malaysia called for more negotiations.

In a pushback against the Trump administration's protectionist rhetoric, 11 nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal have agreed on Sunday to proceed without the U.S.

As the 12 minus one trade ministers met in Hanoi, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand stepped up to fill the vacuum of USA leadership in multilateral trade.

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President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP days after taking office in January, fulfilling one of campaign promises.

Explaining US opposition to using the word protectionism, Lighthizer said the term was being confused with the steps that really needed to lead to free trade.

That trade deal covers only Asian countries, not the United States.

On the sidelines of Apec, the 11 remaining countries of the TPP agreed to explore how they could move ahead without Washington - partly in the hope that the White House would reconsider leaving. "We will need to ensure that our interests remain protected and the benefits derived from it still outweigh the costs", Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said.

The greatest challenge is keeping on board Vietnam and Malaysia, which joined largely to benefit from better access to the USA market.

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The TPP grouping includes Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

In Malaysia, more opportunities for SMEs to enter the global e-commerce market are expected to be created through the investment by AliBaba in Malaysia's Digital Free Trade Zone, he said.

Trade officials said the deal would change significantly without American involvement, although leaders from the 11 remaining countries are still figuring out what a revised trade plan would look like.

Japan, for one, had expended a lot of political capital on reforms needed to be a part of the deal and other countries also hadn't wanted to walk away from years of work negotiating the pact. It is also unlikely that other TPP governments would agree to stronger medicine monopolies and investor rights to sue governments without access to the USA market. It is using the TPP as a bargaining chip to position itself for a bilateral negotiation with the USA, in which it fears the U.S. will demand even more favourable terms than it achieved under the TPP.

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