Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson breaks with Trump on TPP

Rex Tillerson arrives for his confirmation hearing as the nominee for secretary of state. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state Rex Tillerson said Wednesday (Jan 11) he is not against the recently negotiated Asia-Pacific free-trade deal, putting him at odds with the president-elect who has vowed to scrap it.

"I do not oppose TPP," said Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by 12 nations including the United States and Japan, which would encompass some 40 per cent of the global economy.

"I share some of (Trump's) views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America's interests best," he added during his lengthy confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His brief comments on trade break with the position of his would-be boss. On the campaign trail last year Trump repeatedly vowed to tear up the TPP and other trade pacts on his first day in office on Jan 20.

In November, two weeks after his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump released a video in which he reiterated his pledge.

On day one, Trump said, "I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country."

He said he would replace it with "fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores."

Japan's parliament ratified the TPP - which does not include China - in December, but it was largely viewed as an empty gesture owing to Trump's opposition.

The likely demise of the TPP was welcomed in November by state media in China, where the deal had been criticised as a naked attempt to boost US influence in the region and contain the Asian giant.

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