Australia to push for TPP minus US

Men holding signs as they demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC on Nov 14, 2016.
Men holding signs as they demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC on Nov 14, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

CANBERRA • Australia will push the case for a Pacific trade deal without the US at a meeting with other potential members in Chile next month, said Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains "absolutely" relevant without the United States, and the text of the accord would need only minor tweaking to allow for America's withdrawal, Mr Ciobo said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday .

"There were a lot of hard-fought gains that were achieved over intense negotiations over many years in relation to the TPP," Mr Ciobo said. "I don't want, and I know a number of other countries don't want, those gains to slip through our fingers."

The 12-nation pact was thrown into disarray after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the accord in one of his administration's first acts. More broadly, Mr Trump has lambasted free trade deals and signalled a protectionist US under his watch.

While Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has discussed the deal with his Japanese counterpart, Mr Shinzo Abe, and held talks with the leaders of New Zealand and Singapore, some parties have signalled their reluctance to try and proceed without the largest economy.

The TPP also stipulates that to take effect, it needs to be ratified by at least six states, which together account for 85 per cent of the combined gross domestic product of all 12 original signatories. Under that requirement, the pact does not work legally without US involvement.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Australia to push for TPP minus US'. Print Edition | Subscribe