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TPP Nations Seek to Save Trade Deal after US Withdraws

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FILE - A protester holds a sign reading "We oppose Japan to join the TPP negotiation talks" during a rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Tokyo.
FILE - A protester holds a sign reading "We oppose Japan to join the TPP negotiation talks" during a rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Tokyo.

Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are seeking to move forward with the trade agreement after the United States withdrew.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday pulling the United States out of the TPP. Leaders from some TPP nations pledged Tuesday to make attempts to continue the agreement even without the U.S.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had discussed the TPP’s future with the leaders of Japan, Singapore and New Zealand. He told reporters that while the U.S. leaving was clearly “a big loss,” he is hopeful the trade deal will survive.

The United States negotiated the TPP under former President Barack Obama. But the deal faced opposition in the U.S. Congress, which never approved the deal.

Farmers attend a rally against Japan participating in rule-making negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Tokyo.
Farmers attend a rally against Japan participating in rule-making negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Tokyo.

Turnbull added that with America now out of the agreement, “Certainly there is potential for China to join the TPP.”

The Obama administration had said one goal of the TPP was to counter China’s growing regional influence in the Asia-Pacific.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokeswoman would not say whether China would now attempt to join the TPP. She said China believes that all nations “should keep going down the path of open, inclusive, continuous” economic development.

In the past, China has proposed an alternative to the TPP, a trade group called the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

The foreign ministry spokeswoman said efforts to form the FTAAP should now be increased.

China has also supported another group, the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Analysts say other nations may now seek to join alternative trade agreements to take advantage of the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP.

In this photo taken Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, President Donald Trump signs an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade in the Oval Office of the White House.
In this photo taken Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, President Donald Trump signs an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade in the Oval Office of the White House.

Trump’s rejection of the TPP was expected. He repeatedly condemned the agreement during his presidential campaign, saying it was not a fair trade deal for America. Trump has said he favors one-on-one agreements with other nations rather than multinational deals like the TPP.

Carl Thayer is a political scientist at Australia’s University of New South Wales. He said he believes America’s withdrawal from the TPP will greatly reduce Washington’s influence in the region.

“At the moment he (Trump) has given away multilateral (agreements) so the U.S. has no longer a leadership role using the economic lever in Southeast Asia.”

There are 11 remaining TPP members, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The others are Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brunei.

Trade delegates pose for a photograph after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand.
Trade delegates pose for a photograph after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand.

A Malaysian government trade official said the remaining TPP countries would meet in the near future to discuss what steps to take next. The official said there are still “many possibilities” for the remaining 11 nations to push ahead with the TPP.

Last week, Japan’s parliament approved the TPP. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that without the U.S., it would become “meaningless.”

On Tuesday, Abe told lawmakers during a parliamentary debate he still had hope that Trump might change his position. He said he plans to seek Trump's 'understanding' on the importance of the TPP. Abe added that he plans to meet with Trump as soon as possible.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn adapted this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA’s Ron Corben, the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Do you think TPP member nations should move forward with the agreement without the United States? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

executive - adj. a decision made by the person in charge

inclusiveadj. including or covering everything

alternativen. something that can be chosen instead of something else

advantagen. something that helps make something else better

levern. a handle that can be pulled or pushed to make a machine work

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