Malaysia says renegotiation of TPP needed if it proceeds without US

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 20, 2017

There will be a sideline meeting in Hanoi of the remaining 11 nations in the TPP accord, with countries like Japan and Australia pushing to proceed without the U.S.

While, Robert Lighthizer, new Trade Representative of US, will be communicating with main countries and on the other hand, China is pushing the Asian trade agreement, while putting itself first as a global free trade chief.

The first option is relaunching it as "TPP-11", without the U.S. involved.

Meanwhile, Japan is leading the countries that still want to go ahead with a much more comprehensive TPP agreement, a deal Trump ditched in one of his first acts in office and which does not include China.

There are now 11 countries still potentially left in the pact following the United States' departure.

The door would "absolutely" remain open for the United States to return to the agreement in the future, the source added. "To bear in mind an environment where a signatory country can return", said one source close to the discussions who was not authorized to speak to the media. The agreement is due to take effect next year. A Vietnamese official expressed a similar view. During the election campaign, President Donald Trump called the deal with Mexico and Canada a "disaster" that cost millions of U.S.jobs and hollowed out the manufacturing sector.

Asian governments are watching with some anxiety the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as the Trump administration kicks off a review of the pact.

During the APEC meetings, Robert Lighthizer, the new U.S. top trade negotiator, will hold two-way meetings aimed at achieving official contact with key trade officials from Southeast Asia. "In this first meeting, the first thing is to get some clarity on protectionism - this America First and how it's going to affect us in this part of the world", he said.

Main countries are China, Japan and South Korea, with which Trump wants to renegotiate a free trade deal.

However, he told Reuters in an interview that a bigger priority for Malaysia at the moment was completing negotiations on the China-backed trade deal for Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The other two Nafta participants, Canada and Mexico, will be at the APEC meeting.

The free trade agreement doesn't cover as many areas as the TPP deal or demand tough conditions for members on issues such as protecting intellectual property, labour rights or the environment. The deal was therefore effectively dead following the withdrawal of the United States, which accounts for over 60 percent of the trade bloc's GDP.

"TPP has not only economic benefits but also strategic significance".

Mustapa said Malaysia was less keen to continue, but added he would like some clarity on the US position on the pact.

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