Talks on TPP minus USA

In May Japan surprisingly indicated an interest in reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Talks get under way in Japan this week without the US.

Donald Trump withdrew the US from the TPP as soon as he became president.

RNZ:  Japan’s change of heart on TPP good for English

The commitment of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership clearly came as a surprise to both Mr English and his Trade Minister Todd McClay.

In terms of Shinzo Abe’s sudden decision to get back on the TPP-train Mr English credits Mr McClay’s work getting around the region talking up the agreement and trying hard to convince the other remaining 10 nations that it’s worth sticking with.

It may be Mr McClay’s hard work that helped convince the Japanese, but it is also true that Japan is increasingly nervous about its rogue neighbour, North Korea.

The TPP is both a trade deal and a strategic deal and with Japan having it written into its constitution that it can’t use war as a means to settle international disputes, it needs strong allies – hence its obvious preference at having a deal which involves the United States.

Mr Abe wants the TPP text to remain as it is, which means the United States will get the benefits of the agreement even if it isn’t signed up.

But it also means it is easy enough for the United States to rejoin the grouping should it wish to in the future.

Either way the change of heart by the Japanese looked good for Mr English after his first major meeting in Asia as Prime Minister.

Now: TPP reps meet in Japan ahead of APEC

Countries that signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have sent representatives to Japan to work on an agreement this week – without the United States.

They’re hoping to have a proposal ready for trade ministers at November’s APEC meeting in Vietnam.

With continuing uncertainty over trade policy under the Trump administration in the US, there’s rising interest in how a regional trade deal might increase security.

New Zealand’s Trade Minister Todd McClay said economic and strategic benefits went hand in hand.

He said countries that traded with each other and were integrated economically were usually good friends.

“If you look over a period of time, it’s not the only reason, but often that’s why regions have been destabilised – when you don’t have that balance around opportunity and growth.”

There was more to trade and trade agreements that just people buying and selling, he said.

If there is a change in government in September I wonder if there will be a change in approach to the TPP.

One of the points of opposition to the TPP was giving concessions to the US.

Japan, Australia still backing TPP

After an official meeting the leaders of Japan and Australia have said they were committed to proceeding with the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

RNZ: Japan, Australia both back TPP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement after their official meeting as part of Mr Abe’s four-country trip to boost Japan’s trade and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

In his first visit to Australia since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister, he said both leaders were committed to ensuring the 12-country TPP trade deal would come into effect.

“On the economic front we agreed that we should demonstrate anew the importance of free trade,” he said.

“We confirmed that we would coordinate toward the early entry into force of the TPP and the prompt conclusion of the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership].”

There is still a major problem though – Donald Trump has said made a priority of taking the US out of the TPP.

The commitment came despite United States President-elect Donald Trump criticising the TPP as a “potential disaster” for the US and vowing to prioritise withdrawing from the pact.

Mr Abe, who had previously said the TPP would be meaningless without the US, said the countries also agreed to maintain “solid cooperation” with the Trump administration.

NZ Herald report that Bill English says a rethink on the TPP may be necessary in Bill English optimistic about Donald Trump US presidency

One of Trump’s first acts will affect New Zealand’s interests – Trump has pledged to initiate the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership on his first day in office.

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Japan PM Shinzo Abe met recently to discuss how to salvage the TPP and English said he was not ready to give up altogether either.

“I wouldn’t say it is futile, but I think along with those countries, we need to rethink our approach. It could be as soon as next week that the US executes its position and that means we need to rethink it.”

“I would hope there would be a way of keeping the US engaged in the Asia Pacific and the TPP certainly would have done that. There may have to be some adaptation or some other way of doing that.”

‘Rethink’ may mean trying to do a TPP without the US, unless Trump makes a major reversal on his stance.