Pacific Rim countries agree to pursue trade deal sans US

Japan and other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreed on Sunday to pursue their proposed trade deal without the United States, during a meeting of Asia-Pacific countries in which the Trump administration's "America First" policy created tension.

Asia-Pacific trade ministers have agreed to resuscitate the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, despite US President Donald Trump abandoning it.

Monday's meeting took place at a time when 11 remaining members of the Trans Pacific Partnership committed to move ahead without the United States.

Lighthizer said although the United States has withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the country will continue to cooperate with TPP member economies on a bilateral basis.

The remaining countries held their highest level talks on Sunday and announced that they look forward to continuing the trade deal without US involvement, the news agency reported.

The volume of trade between the remaining countries is barely a quarter of the level it would have been if the United States had remained in the TPP.

Asked why the United States was against using language opposing protectionism, he said it favoured free trade, but would defend against unfair trade.

New Zealand, Australia and Japan worked behind-scenes on the sidelines of the APEC meeting to convince countries like Vietnam and Malaysia to agree to revive the TPP.

Japan still hopes to bring the United States back to the agreement, but is trying to get the 11 remaining countries to push ahead. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed fears that China may take control over trade in the region through the RCEP, which has been promoted by Beijing.

Vietnam and Malaysia had been expected to be beneficiaries from the original TPP with greater access to US markets and investments.

Japan has the largest economy of the 11 nations, which also include Chile, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

TPP was to create the world's biggest Single Market, encompassing 40% of the global GDP.

"I believe at some point there will be a series of bilateral agreements with partners in this part of the world", the 69-year-old Reagan-era trade negotiator told a news conference.

Australia's Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, who has been keen to revive the deal after the USA pulled out in January, hailed the move a great outcome. It is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.

"It is a pity that a country won't participate in the TPP process because it will affect the balanced outcomes of all nations involved in the negotiation process, as well as the validity and enforcement of the agreement", the minister told reporters after the meeting.

The RCEP and TPP trade deals are not mutually exclusive and some countries would be members of both. "This would lead to a protracted negotiation, with Japan acting as a U.S. proxy to preserve the existing text", said Dr Ranald.

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