Obama, 11 leaders to meet in Manila on TPP

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – US President Barack Obama and 11 other world leaders will meet in Manila on Wednesday, November 18, to discuss a landmark deal creating the world’s largest free trade area.

The White House on Thursday, November 12, confirmed that Obama and 11 other world leaders, who all signed the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will meet in Manila on Wednesday.

This meeting on the TPP is reportedly set on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) hosted by the Philippines. 

During this meeting, the leaders “are expected to declare that they will aim for the early entry into force of the TPP pact,” the Japanese news agency Jiji Press reported.

"This will be the first time that the leaders of the various TPP countries will be able to come together since the completion and publication of the text,” US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, also assistant to the US president, said in a news conference.

Rhodes added, “The leaders will have an opportunity to mark this enormous progress and to demonstrate their shared commitment to moving forward with TPP.”

He said the US backs the ratification of the TPP, which is an anchor of both our economic approach, but also our commitment to a rules-based order in the region.

Philippines: ‘We are not involved’

In a media briefing Friday, APEC spokesman Charles Jose, who also speaks for the Philippines’ foreign ministry, said he cannot confirm this meeting.

“As you all know, the Philippines is not or not yet a member of TPP, so we are not involved in the reported meeting of TPP members,” Jose said. “Because we are not involved, we don't have information whether or not this report is accurate.” (READ: APEC 2015: Where PH stands in the Trans-Pacific Partnership)

Trade ministers of 12 Pacific rim countries reached an agreement on the TPP just before dawn on October 5, capping 5 years of difficult talks led by the US.

Spanning about two-fifths of the global economy, the hard-won deal aims to set the rules for 21st century trade and investment and press China, not among the 12, to shape its behavior in commerce, investment and business regulation to TPP standards.

The accord involves significant market openings, tariff cuts on thousands of products, and pledges to protect investors across the 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. (READ: FAST FACTS: The Trans-Pacific Partnership)

Obama hailed the agreement as one that "strengthens our strategic relationships with our partners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st century."

"When more than 95% of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can't let countries like China write the rules of the global economy," Obama said in a statement. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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