Trump dumping Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Trump will use one of his first Executive Orders to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving China to freely pursue its own trade deal with Asia-Pacific nations.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead in the water after the administration of new United States President Donald Trump announced the country's withdrawal from the trade agreement following his inauguration on Friday.

In a formal statement issued over the weekend, the White House said the president has decided to base its foreign policy on an "America first" attitude that involves returning "millions of jobs to America's shores" by backing out of multilateral trade agreements such as the TPP.

"The president understands how critical it is to put American workers and businesses first when it comes to trade. With tough and fair agreements, international trade can be used to grow our economy ... this strategy starts by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers," the statement said.

"In addition to rejecting and reworking failed trade deals, the United States will crack down on those nations that violate trade agreements and harm American workers in the process ... By fighting for fair but tough trade deals, we can bring jobs back to America's shores, increase wages, and support US manufacturing."

The statement added that Trump also intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and will withdraw from the trilateral agreement if Canada and Mexico refuse to negotiate on terms that give "American workers a fair deal".

The official White House statement followed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's speech confirming that one of Trump's first Executive Orders would be to dump the TPP.

Despite the statement from the White House on Saturday, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the TPP should still be ratified by the remaining signatories, with some small changes needing to be made after the US' withdrawal.

"The best trade deals are deals that produce win-win outcomes, and that's what we all recognised has been achieved under the TPP," Ciobo told ABC Radio on Monday.

"Our nation's interests are best served by continuing to open up markets."

Ciobo last week met with six of the TPP's parties -- Japan, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand, and Malaysia -- at the World Economic Forum to discuss the future of the trade deal.

"The Turnbull government does not shy away from standing up for what is in our national interest. Continuing our strong advocacy on the benefits of the TPP is no different," Ciobo said in a statement on Sunday.

"The TPP is too important as a driver of the creation of more Australian jobs not to do all we can to see the agreement enter into force ... we reject protectionism, and open markets are the path to long-term sustainable job creation."

Conversely, Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare has said that without the US, the TPP is "dead" and the federal government must focus on alternative trade deal opportunities with China, India, Japan, and other Asian and Pacific nations, as well as with Europe and post-Brexit United Kingdom.

"Without the United States, the TPP cannot come into effect. There is no TPP without the United States," Clare said in a statement over the weekend.

"The way the TPP works is without the United States, it doesn't come into effect, and that means that the TPP is dead and Donald Trump has killed it."

Both of Australia's major political parties agreed that multilateral trade deals will create more jobs than an inward-looking policy of bilateral trade deals as proposed by Trump, however.

"Instead of focusing on a dead agreement, Malcolm Turnbull should focus on trying to sign Australia up to real trade deals that will create real jobs for Australians," Clare said.

According to Clare, India will be one of the largest economies globally by mid-century, while the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal would also be a good prospect for Australia given the economic power of China.

"I suspect with the Americans retreating away from the TPP, the Chinese may step up now and try and finalise that agreement," Clare added.

Former US Trade Representative Michael Froman warned Trump earlier this month that he risks "abdicating" trade leadership in the Asia-Pacific region by refusing to ratify the TPP, as it would create an opportunity for China to step in with its RCEP deal.

"There simply is no way to reconcile a get-tough-on-China policy with withdrawing from TPP," Froman said during a speech to the Washington International Trade Association.

"That would be the biggest gift any US president could give China, one with broad and deep consequences, economic and strategic.

"It would be a strategic miscalculation of enormous proportions.

"Why would we cede our role as a Pacific power? Does anyone really think US interests are better served if China, rather than the US, writes the rules of the road?"

Obama's administration had repeatedly warned Congress prior to Trump's election that not approving the TPP would risk trade rival China pushing through RCEP. According to Obama, this would put millions of jobs across the US at risk.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong similarly told the US Chamber of Commerce in August that the ratification of the TPP is "a litmus test of your credibility", adding that the nation will be better off with its "doors open" to trade.

However, Obama's administration suspended its efforts to get the agreement through Congress following the surprise election of Trump in November, who called the TPP a "disaster" during his election campaign and said it would threaten American jobs by introducing lower-wage competition.

The TPP, signed by all 12 member states in February 2016, was designed to regulate trade between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile. Only Japan has ratified it so far.

The Australian Treaties Committee in November recommended that the federal government still ratify the TPP in spite of the likelihood that it would be abandoned by the US, as well as concerns from the copyright industry -- although it conceded that work needs to be done to convince an increasingly "nationalist and isolationist" public of this.

"The committee is aware of the resurgence in nationalist and isolationist points of view across the globe, and the threat this represents to the benefits brought by free trade," the Treaties Committee said.

"Addressing these views is an underlying theme in the committee's recommendations and comments throughout the report. Australia relies on the benefits of free trade for its economic and social success.

"While the committee finds the TPP to be in Australia's national interest, the committee is aware that there is much work to do to ensure that the Australian public is also convinced of this."

Among other things, the committee also recommended that the federal government be less secretive when negotiating treaties; allow third parties and industry to be involved; allow independent analysis by the Productivity Commission or similar; pass the safe harbour provisions amendment to the Copyright Act; and take "binding treaty action" on the TPP.

With AAP

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