HANOI: Australia will push for agreement among the remaining 11 signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at a meeting of trade ministers in Hanoi on Sunday (May 21) aimed at reviving the deal after the United States pulled out of the agreement.
“The real focus for us is to build consensus to build a pathway or pathways forward for a TPP-11,” Australia Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo told Channel NewsAsia on Saturday.
The TPP that originally included 12 members was widely seen as a significant agreement as it would facilitate trade among countries accounting for 40 per cent of global GDP. However, a decision by US President Donald Trump early in his administration to withdraw the US has left the future of the TPP in doubt.
According to reports, there are different plans for the TPP, including pushing ahead with smaller groupings of countries. But there are different levels of enthusiasm towards the future of the trade deal.
“It’s still relatively early days, but we want to move as efficiently, as quickly as we can to lock in the gains of the TPP-11,” Mr Ciobo said. “We have an agreement between 11 countries. I think we should as much as possible bring into effect that agreement between 11 countries. My focus is on nothing else."
New Zealand, Australia and Japan have been among the most active countries wanting to push ahead with the TPP, while also negotiating their part in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a rival trade deal to the TPP that includes China and excludes the US.
“I think there will be flow of benefits from the RCEP if the RCEP is a high quality ambitious agreement. TPP is high quality. It’s a very good agreement,” Mr Ciobo said.
The meeting in Hanoi will see the newly sworn in trade representative of the US Robert Lighthizer hold individual meetings with its partners. Japan hopes to convince the US to rejoin the TPP deal with changes to the agreed terms, according to the Japanese delegation to the meeting.
Under the original terms of the TPP, the deal could not come into effect unless it is ratified by six countries accounting for 85 percent of the group's combined GDP. Without the US, the deal cannot be ratified.