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Obama gives up on TPP following election of free trade-averse Trump

Thanks to the surprise election of free trade critic Donald Trump, the trade deal between the US, Australia, and 10 APAC nations will likely fade into obsolescence.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Just one week after the Australian government's final public hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the administration of current United States President Barack Obama has suspended its efforts to get the agreement through Congress following the election of Donald Trump as the incoming president.

Trump, who called the TPP a "disaster" during his election campaign and said it would threaten American jobs by introducing lower-wage competition, will be in charge of the trade deal after his inauguration in January 2017, alongside the Republican-majority Congress.

"We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it's up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward," United States Trade Representative spokesman Matt McAlvanah said in a statement.

Trump had said he would dump the TPP, as well as renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and assume a tougher trade stance with China.

Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan also said he would not proceed with a "lame-duck" vote, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adding that he would not take up TPP in the weeks before Trump's inauguration.

Obama's administration has said the current president would attempt to explain the situation to the other 11 countries involved in the deal next week at a regional summit in Peru.

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

Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has said that while the remaining 11 nations could still go ahead with the deal, it is unlikely to survive with the US withdrawing.

"With the United States not being part of it, first of all ... officially the TPP would not get up," Ciobo told ABC TV on Sunday.

"Secondly, if we looked at, well is there still enough merit to look at a trade deal among the 11 of us, it changes the metrics substantially."

Ciobo added that Australia did not pin all its trade hopes on the TPP, as it is still pursuing several bilateral trade deals along with a regional economic deal.

"If it comes to pass that the TPP doesn't secure United States domestic ratification, it is certainly not the end of trade globally as we know it," he said.

Ciobo added that he didn't think of Trump as being necessarily anti-trade.

"[Trump] said he wants trade deals that are better for American workers, better for American wages, and help America's budget position," the trade minister said.

"Those are goals that aren't dissimilar to mine for Australia."

Obama's administration had warned Congress two weeks ago that not approving the TPP would risk trade rival China pushing through its own deal with APAC nations. 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.

The news of the end of the TPP should come as a relief to the copyright industry in Australia, however, which has historically argued against the stringent provisions in the document.

Earlier this month, submissions from Open Source Industry Australia and Law Council of Australia's Business Law Section Intellectual Property Committee recommended that the international treaty not be ratified until the problems of complexity and inconsistency are addressed in regards to intellectual property and copyright protection provisions.

The Australian Digital Alliance and Copyright Advisory Group also last month argued at the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties: Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement hearing that without the more extensive safe harbour provisions under the proposed Copyright Act amendments, Australia would be in breach of its TPP obligations.

The Australian government's chief negotiator said that no policy would need to be changed despite Australia's laws on intellectual property in terms of safe harbour provisions being at odds with the international agreement, however.

"We deem that our policy settings on intellectual property are within -- we negotiated these to be within the standard of the TPP," Elizabeth Ward, the Australian government's chief negotiator for the TPP, said last week during the hearing.

"We will not be changing any of our legislation as a result, and at least to my knowledge we haven't received any news from the United States with regard to ISP liability."

With AAP

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