18 March 2019
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay says the path is open for the US to rejoin the bloc. Photo: WSJ
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay says the path is open for the US to rejoin the bloc. Photo: WSJ

TPP nations vow to forge ahead without US

The 11 countries left in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have backed a proposal to continue with the pact, despite US President Donald Trump pulling out of it in January, the Wall Street Journal reports., citing New Zealand’s trade minister. 

Todd McClay, who chaired the meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday suggested the path was open for the US to rejoin if it changed its mind.

“It’s clear that each country is having to consider both economic values and strategic importance of this agreement, but in the end there is a lot of unity among all of the countries and a great desire to work together to come up with an agreement among 11 that not only delivers for all of our economies and the people of our countries, it’s also open to other countries in the world to join if they can meet the high standards in the TPP agreement,” the Associated Press reported McClay telling reporters.

He and other trade ministers from the bloc of 11 also issued a statement saying they had resolved to “launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high quality agreement into force.” They also emphasized that they would work on ways to allow the US to rejoin the group, as well as providing the scope for other countries to join.

McClay said high-level talks would resume when leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meet in Vietnam in November.

Meanwhile, the US’s new trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, held a series of bilateral meetings in Hanoi with key trading partners, reflecting in part the Trump administration’s position that forging individual, country-to-country trade deals would better serve American interests than would multilateral trade pacts such as the TPP.

It is unclear what a TPP would mean without access to U.S. markets, a key draw for many of the countries that joined negotiations. Supporters hope, however, that moving ahead will prevent more than five years of work hammering out the trade rules from being wasted, and keep the agreement on life support in case political conditions eventually change in the US.

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