‘Australia to continue with TPP, despite US blow’

Canberra, Jan 24 (IANS) Australia will work with the remaining TPP nations and salvage what can be of the doomed free trade agreement after the US decision to withdraw from the deal, Trade Minister said.

Following US President Donald Trump’s overnight decision to axe America’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, effectively leaving the deal in its current form ‘dead in the water’, Steve Ciobo said other remaining nations have opened up discussion lines about a potential replacement, as the Trump decision was “not unexpected”.

“We are not going to walk away from pursuing high quality trade deals that are good for Australian exports,” Ciobo said, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

“A number of us had a conversation about a possible ‘TPP 12 minus one’ in other words, the Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the US in order to keep hold of the gains we’ve been able to agree (upon),” Ciobo has said.

“I’ve had conversations with Canada, Japan, Mexico, with New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. I know there have been conversations with Chie and Peru.

“There are quite a number of countries that have an interest in looking to see if we could make a ‘TPP 12 minus one’,” the minister said.

The Trade Minister also hinted at the possibility of introducing a new, or multiple new nations, into the agreement; he told the ABC there has been interest from Indonesia, while China may also be approached.

“The original architecture was to enable other countries to join,” Ciobo said.

“Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed a possible interest. And there would be scope for China if we’re able to reformulate it to be a ‘TPP 12 minus one’ for countries like Indonesia or China – or indeed other countries – to consider joining.”

However, he said, it may be some time before formal discussions about the matter take place, considering Trump was also keen to “renegotiate” the existing North American Free Trade Agreement.

“President Trump has indicated he wants to renegotiate elements of the North American FTA, and that would have an impact on Canada and Mexico, which in turn would have an impact on the kind of deal we could reach under the ’12 minus one’,” Ciobo said.

Despite the optimism from the government on the matter, the federal opposition has urged the government to “move on” from the doomed multilateral trade deal, opposition spokesperson Jason Clare said.

“This executive order means the TPP is now officially dead,” Clare said. “(Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility is not in much better shape.”

“Last week he announced that his big economic plan for the year was to introduce legislation to implement the TPP. Donald Trump’s executive order today means Malcolm Turnbull’s big economic plan is also dead. It would have no effect at all.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to wake up and move on, and develop a real economic plan for Australia.”

–IANS

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