‘Meaningless’ without U.S.: Japan rejects plan to salvage TPP

by WorldTribune Staff, January 25, 2017

Saying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is “meaningless” without the United States, Japan on Jan. 25 rejected Australia’s effort to salvage the trade agreement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had suggested China be brought in as a replacement for the U.S. after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact, according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month. /Getty Images

“Without the U.S., the TPP pact is meaningless, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has clearly said,” Japan’s deputy cabinet secretary Koichi Hagiuda said, according to the English-language Japan Times.

“The fundamental balance of interests is lost without the U.S.”

Turnbull said on Jan. 25 he had spoken to the leaders of Japan, New Zealand and Singapore about how their nations could “maintain this momentum towards open markets and free trade.”

Japan indicated it was not considering any further action on the TPP.

Singapore’s trade ministry told The Straits Times it sought to “discuss the way forward” with the TPP nations and explore other free-trade initiatives.

Japan, the second-largest economy among the 12 TPP members, was the only country to have ratified the agreement. The pact, however, can’t take effect without the U.S. and would have to be renegotiated.

Turnbull, who hosted Abe in Australia earlier this month, stressed the importance of trade for local industry.

“Trade is critical to us,” Turnbull said. “Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that. But we are not about to walk away from our commitment to Australian jobs.”

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison borrowed a phrase from the Trump playbook and declared the government was pursuing an “Australia First” policy when it came to free-trade agreements.

“Australia’s a trading nation, an Australia First policy does embrace trade and foreign investment and all of these things,” Morrison told Bloomberg News. “Our economic interests are very much aligned with that approach.”

There was still “a lot to be gained” from the TPP and “we intend to pursue that”, Morrison said.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has also suggested a possible “12 minus one” arrangement without the U.S.

Australia’s opposition Labor Party declared the TPP “dead,” and argued any attempt to ratify the agreement in the Australian Parliament would be a waste of time.

“The rest of the world and everyone in Australia knows it’s over,” opposition leader Bill Shorten said, while adding: “Of course we need to salvage our trade agreements, and I do think it is important to pursue trade arrangements with nations.”

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