Trump reconsidering TPP trade deal

After firing the starting gun on a trade war with China last month, US President Donald Trump has told trade officials to examine rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

United States President Donald Trump is reconsidering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), he has told a group of lawmakers during a business and trade White House meeting concerning rising tariffs with China.

Trump has asked US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and new chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow to examine re-entering the free trade agreement and "take another look at whether or not a better deal could be negotiated".

The request follows Trump starting a trade war with China that could impact American exports.

The president had previously said he would rejoin the TPP if he could obtain more favourable terms, but has not suggested what he would make changes to.

The original TPP had been signed in February 2016 by the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile, but was then dumped by Trump on his first week in office in favour of bilateral trade deals that promote his "America first" protectionist policy, despite warnings that he risked "abdicating" trade leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to China.

Previous President Barack Obama's administration had repeatedly warned Congress prior to Trump's election that not approving the TPP would risk trade rival China pushing through its own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal. 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 2016 that the ratification of the TPP would be "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 2016, who called the TPP a "disaster" during his election campaign and said it would threaten American jobs by introducing lower-wage competition.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP 11 then passed at the start of this year with its remaining member nations, and will take effect in Australia by the end of 2018.

"The TPP will eliminate more than 98 percent of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion. The agreement will deliver 18 new free trade agreements between the TPP parties," Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said in January.

"For Australia, that means new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei."

Turnbull had added that while he would encourage the US to rejoin the TPP, he didn't see "any prospect of that".

"The way the agreement is structured is so that the Americans can effectively, America can dock back in, which is obviously what everyone would hope for at some point in the future," the prime minister said.

With South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia also having shown "strong interest" in the TPP, Turnbull said he is hopeful that other nations will additionally join the trade pact in future.

While Turnbull had also previously suggested that the TPP could be opened up to China, the Chinese government expressed unwillingness to join, instead favouring the RCEP, which is being negotiated between China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.

At least half of the nations involved in the TPP had said they would consider Chinese-led multilateral trade deals such as the RCEP.

The New Zealand government in February published the content of the TPP 11 deal, with the intellectual property chapter outlining safe harbour and fair use regimes.

Similar to the previous TPP, under Chapter 18 of the new Pacific rim trade agreement, the parties have set also out enforcement obligations against the infringement of copyright, including civil and criminal penalties with an aim of deterring piracy.

A spokesperson for Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had previously said Canada's government was holding out during recent talks in Tokyo on protecting the copyright of its intellectual property.

Similar to Canada's intellectual property concerns, an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) committee had last year pointed towards the TPP's "troubling" provisions that would have the effect of locking in Australia's intellectual property regime.

This also followed concerns from Australia's copyright industry, and issues with "ambiguity" in the data protection provisions.

Australia's current judicial regime allows content owners to obtain an order from the Federal Court ordering ISPs to block access to foreign-hosted websites that facilitate piracy at the cost of the copyright holder.

With AAP

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