Japan and other remaining members of the Trans Pacific Partnership will this weekend decide how to revive the trade agreement ditched by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Their trade ministers will talk on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, where newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is also due to give more detail of Washington’s trade plans.
Uncertainty over those plans after Trump abandoned a trade deal he had compared to the “rape” of America has brought fears of protectionism and strengthened China’s leadership credentials in Asia.
Support has built among the so-called TPP-11 for pushing ahead without the United States although trade within the smaller block is only a quarter of that between the original 12 members, according to the most recent data.
Moving ahead could help the bargaining position of the members in bilateral talks with the United States.
It could also undercut the increasing regional dominance of China, which is not part of the TPP and backs a bigger but less comprehensive free trade agreement for Asia.
“We’ll be looking to see whether TPP ministers say they are definitely pushing ahead by simply by changing the articles,” said Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat.
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