Australia hopes to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by encouraging China and other Asian nations into the agreement in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his country out of the pact, its trade minister said on Tuesday. New Zealand’s trade minister said ministers from the remaining TPP countries would meet in the next few months to discuss how to save the trade deal, which was seen in Asia as a counterbalance to China’s rising influence.
Fulfilling a campaign pledge Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Monday pulling the United States out of the 2015 TPP agreement and distancing the United States from its Asian allies.
The trade deal, which the United States had signed but not ratified, was a pillar of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it as an engine of economic reform, as well as a counter-weight to a rising China, which is not a TPP member.
TPP member Australia said China and Indonesia could join in the vacuum left by the United Sates. The TPP had yet to come into force with many countries still to ratify it.
“The original architecture was to enable other countries to join,” Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday.
“Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed interest and there would be scope for China if we are able to reformulate it,” said Ciobo.
The remaining 11 TPP nations are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.
Trump took office as the 45th president of the United States on Friday and pledged to end what he called an “American carnage” of rusted factories and crime in an inaugural address that was a populist and nationalist rallying cry.”
He vowed to bring jobs back by renegotiating what he called bad multilateral trade deals in favour of bilateral deals, with his first move scrapping the TPP.
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said in an emailed statement to Reuters that he had talked with a number of TPP-member ministers when he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos last week and he expected they would meet over the coming months to “consider how to move forward”.
“The agreement still has value as a FTA (Free Trade Agreement] with the other countries involved,” said McClay, adding that it was New Zealand’s first free trade agreement with Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru.
Obama framed TPP without China in an effort to write Asia’s trade rules before Beijing could, establishing U.S. economic leadership in the region as part of his “pivot to Asia”.
China has proposed a counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and has championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).