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Jilted TPP partners divided over response

The eleven countries abandoned by the US when it left the Trans Pacific Partnership on January 23 appear seriously divided about what to do next. Beijing continues to suggest their best response is a completely different arrangement centred on China.

Australia has suggested the eleven continue negotiating among themselves with “countries like Indonesia or China or indeed other countries to consider joining.”  “There is also the opportunity for the TPP to proceed without the United States”, said its Prime Minister, Matthew Turnbull.”

But this seems not to interest Japan. “Without the U.S., the TPP pact is meaningless as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has clearly said. The fundamental balance of interests is lost without the U.S.” said Koichi Hagiuda, deputy chief cabinet secretary.

Canada shared Japan’s scepticism. TPP “cannot happen without the United States being a party to it,” said Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on January 24.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto said on January 24 that it will “will begin negotiations with Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries to strike new trade deals as it seeks to diversify markets for its exports and boost non-US investment”

Vietnam’s foreign ministry said the country “will continue its economic reforms” despite US withdrawal – not really a choice, since they are required by its free trade deal with the EU.

Meanwhile New Zealand and Malaysia envisage some months of discussions between the eleven while they consider options.

Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said on January 24 it had received positive responses after inviting ministers from other TPP nations, as well as China and South Korea, to a summit in March to discuss how to proceed with other free trade pacts.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on January 24 that efforts towards a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) should be stepped up, adding that China hoped talks on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) “could be concluded at an early date.” China intends both these projects should ultimately be centred on China.

With the possible exception of China, none of the remaining TPP countries publicly expressed much enthusiasm for either the RCEP or the FTAAP. Most of the TPP-11 have expressed polite interest in bilateral deals with the UK, and several of them are now showing greater interest in other one-to-one trade deals around the world