WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Details of a revamped cross-Pacific pact aimed at slashing trade barriers were released Wednesday, February 21, amid a renewed push for the United States to rejoin the 11-nation deal.
New Zealand unveiled the official text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP-11, which had to be redrawn after Donald Trump rejected it last year just days into his presidency.
The nation’s Trade Minister David Parker said making it public would allow better scrutiny before it is formally signed in Santiago on March 8.
“New Zealand has been working hard to see the text made public as quickly as possible,” Parker said, adding that changes to the original document included the suspension of 22 items relating to areas such as intellectual property and taxpayer subsidized medicine.
Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the landmark agreement would eliminate more than 98 percent of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP of some US$13 trillion.
“The (Malcolm) Turnbull government wants to see this landmark agreement enter into force as soon as possible so Australian farmers, businesses and manufactures can enjoy its benefits,” he said.
The 11 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Together they account for about 13.5% of the global economy.
However, that figure would be closer to 40% if the United States was included, an outcome some lawmakers in Trump’s own Republican party are reportedly pushing for.
The Washington Post said on Tuesday, February 20, that 25 Republican senators had written to Trump urging a rethink.
“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” they wrote in a letter cited by the newspaper.
“Increased economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of US businesses, support millions of US jobs, increase US exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers.”
Trump has not ruled out a U-turn, despite referring to the TPP as “a disaster” during his election campaign, believing the accord would punish US workers by allowing companies to hire cheaper labour abroad.
In an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month he said the US would consider negotiating with the TPP bloc but “only if is in the interests of all”.
His predecessor Barack Obama believed the deal would set a higher standard for trade, including on health and the environment, and eventually entice China to play by the same rules. – Rappler.com