The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signatory nations have agreed to examine moving forward with the trade deal after the departure of the United States, with the decision announced on Sunday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Vietnam.
"Ministers and vice ministers from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam met today to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership," they said in a joint statement.
"The ministers agreed on the value of realising the TPP's benefits, and to that end, they agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high-quality agreement into force expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories."
TPP officials from each country will meet in Japan in July and further discuss proposals on 10-11 November in Da Nang, Vietnam.
According to reports by Reuters, one of the biggest challenges will be keeping Vietnam and Malaysia on board; both want to renegotiate the deal after originally signing up for the TPP exclusively to gain better access to US markets.
Specifically, the TPP nations said they are looking to address their "concern about protectionism"; meanwhile, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer used APEC to hold one-on-one meetings with nations to form bilateral trade deals.
The TPP was signed in February 2016 by the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile; however, it was then dumped by new President Donald Trump on his first week in office in favour of bilateral trade deals that promote Trump's "America first" protectionist policy, despite warnings that he risked "abdicating" trade leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to China.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in February reiterated his commitment to salvaging parts of the TPP, with Australia to continue pushing for a revised deal during a meeting in March with the remaining TPP members in Chile.
"While Australia is disappointed by the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are continuing to talk to the other signatories, including Canada, about how we can use the work that has been done to capture the TPP's enormous economic and strategic benefits," Turnbull told the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum at the time.
Canada has previously said the TPP cannot legally progress without the US because of the way the trade deal was framed: It was negotiated under the condition that a minimum of six countries with a combined GDP of 85 percent of the 12 signatories must ratify it.
As the US accounts for 60 percent of the combined GDP, the TPP cannot come into effect without either changes being made to the conditions -- or another large economy, such as China, taking the US' place.
Australia has been in talks with New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia on salvaging the TPP, with Turnbull previously suggesting that it could possibly be opened up to China.
However, the Chinese government expressed unwillingness to join the TPP earlier this year, instead favouring its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal.
The RCEP's protections of intellectual property are not as strong as those under the TPP, with at least half of the nations involved in the TPP since saying they will instead consider Chinese-led multilateral trade deals including the RCEP.
The RCEP is currently being negotiated between China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand,
Earlier this year, the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee recommended that Australia undertake further negotiations with its "major trading partners" prior to taking any binding treaty action on the TPP, with an additional recommendation that the government also reforms its treaty-making process to be less secretive.
The Senate report also pointed to several "troubling aspects" of the TPP, including provisions that would have the effect of locking in Australia's intellectual property regime -- following concerns from Australia's copyright industry -- and "ambiguity" in the data protection provisions, as well as a lack of independent economic analysis.