27 February 2020

TPP done this year but China won’t join yet, US chamber says

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is expected to be sealed this year with Japan joining the proposed free-trade alliance and China and South Korea excluded for the time being, the United States Chamber of Commerce said Monday.

“TPP will be done before we have China, Korea… [and] I see very little prospect of TPP moving forward without Japan,” Myron Brilliant, the chamber’s executive vice president and head of international affairs, told a press conference.

“Japan is critical to us. If Japan doesn’t move on the sacred cows, why would the United States move on their issues and why would the other countries? Political courage is necessary.”

The Japanese government aims to remove tariffs on five product segments — rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar — by reviewing 586 items classified under the five categories.

“We will see what happens in the April visit,” Brilliant said, referring to US President Barack Obama’s scheduled visits to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines next month. “If we don’t get it done in April, we still have the trade ministerial meeting in May and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this year.”

He said 80 percent of the issues on the TPP have been sorted out. “We are only left with the 20 percent on things like market access, state-owned enterprises and intellectual property, as well as cross-border debt.”

As for Hong Kong, Brilliant suggests that the city persuade the central government to join the TPP so that Hong Kong can be involved. “But definitely not in the short term,” he said. He noted that the US has begun serious negotiations with China on a bilateral investment treaty, but it is too soon to say when the treaty will be signed.

Reuters on Jan. 23 quoted US Trade Representative Michael Froman as saying during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that “we’ll want to see whether we can make progress there [the investment treaty with Beijing] first”.

Brilliant said the chamber is closely watching the impact of reforms on the Chinese economy and the emerging markets, especially in Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and India, which have high inflation rates and current account deficits and are scheduled to hold elections this year.

“We are watching these countries carefully and we are looking at the currency changes as well as the reform efforts in these countries,” and how they will affect US trade, he said.

– Contact HKEJ at [email protected]