The countries of Asia-Pacific lay the foundations of a trade agreement without the US
Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin greet each other as they pose for a photo prior to the gala dinner of the APEC leaders on Friday, November 10 in Danang (Vietnam)
Eleven countries in the Asia-Pacific region sat down on Saturday the basis of an ambitious trade agreement in which the US will not be, after President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the negotiations.
The other great economic power of the region, China, was never invited to this agreement whose first negotiations go back more than ten years ago.
Trump’s decision earlier this year came as a surprise and left the so-called Trans-Pacific Economic Cooperation (TPP) agreement very much in the balance.
But the eleven remaining countries (Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam) decided not to surrender and move forward with the negotiations.
“The ministers [of commerce] are pleased to announce an agreement on the central elements” of the text, the representatives of the eleven countries indicated this Saturday in a joint statement.
For his part, the Minister of Commerce of Japan, Toshimitsu Motegi, one of the countries most interested in not letting the TPP die, assured that the agreement “will send a very strong positive message to the United States and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.”
The negotiations took place outside the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) held this week in the Vietnamese city of Danang, an organization that brings together 21 economies representing about 60% of the world’s wealth.
“TPP-11 remains the most important trade agreement of the last 20 years, except for those of the EU,” says Deborah Elms, of the Asian Trade Center in Singapore, because it not only aims to open markets for goods, but also for services and investments.
A first draft of the agreement, considered a counterweight to the economic power of China and promoted by former President Barack Obama, was approved in 2015, and when it included the United States it represented 40% of the world economy.
But Donald Trump reiterated on Friday in a speech in Danang that the United States “will not re-enter into big deals that tie us up” and said opting for bilateral agreements.
“I will make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific country that wants to be our partner and that respects the principles of fair and reciprocal trade,” he said, insisting that he would not let others “take advantage” of their country’s economy. first in the world.
– Intense negotiations –
In the last days of intense negotiations in Danang, marked by denials and contradictory versions, it seems that the demands of Canada stopped an agreement that seemed imminent.
The North American country demands that the treaty include not only commercial aspects (reduction of tariffs, etc.) but also “progressives”.
This term refers to include in the text articles to ensure that the signatories respect the environment or guarantee decent working conditions, aspects that were not traditionally part of trade agreements.
“We need to set the bar very high on the progressive elements, it is about creating the conditions of trade for the next generations,” a source with the Canadian delegation told AFP.
For the Latin American countries of TPP-11, the agreement is crucial, particularly for Mexico, which is trying to diversify its trade to avoid its great dependence on the United States.
For its part, Chile also committed to free trade and with the TPP the South American country announced in Danang an extension of its current trade agreement with China, “great good news”, in the words of Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.