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Pacific Rim Nations Say They’ll Push Forward on Trade With or Without US

Donald Trump may have dampened hopes for free trade, but leaders in the Pacific Rim aren’t fazed.

At an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit with leaders of the 21 member nations, including the U.S., in Lima, Peru, over the weekend, Peru president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said something must be done to address the “alarming rise in anti-globalization sentiment” worldwide.

From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump, a sense of traditionalism, almost counter-globalization, has entered the airwaves and stoked concerns of decreased free trade. Especially where the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is concerned, as the 11 Pacific Rim nations involved in the U.S.-led trade deal aren’t sure where that deal will go—if anywhere.

The Obama administration said earlier this month that it would not push TPP in the lame-duck session of Congress, essentially putting the deal on hold and leaving it in Trump’s hands, which, considering his very public commitment to pull out of TPP, could very likely spell bad news for the agreement.

But President Kuczynski wants APEC to cooperate to “reinvigorate sluggish trade,” and leaders of APEC said they would move forward with trade pacts with or without U.S. involvement.

“We have to give an unequivocal message to the world that trade continues being beneficial,” The Wall Street Journal reported Kuczynski as saying.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key seemed to suggest the 11 other TPP members might consider implementing the deal without the U.S.

“If the United States doesn’t want to participate in free trade, Trump needs to know that other countries will,” the Journal reported Key as saying. “We hope he is part of the program. But if not, we are going to continue doing things.”

Leaders at APEC expressed concern that the U.S. may be shifting from its role of advocating for the removal of trade barriers to fuel economic growth.

President Obama, who was present at the APEC meeting, reportedly looked to assuage the concerns, suggesting that U.S. policies likely wouldn’t undergo significant changes, but possibly more slight modifications to current trade deals.

Addressing TPP, Obama said not moving forward with the deal would “undermine” U.S. influence, according to the Journal.

Not taking up TPP, which was designed in part to quell China’s control in the region, means China can look to fill any void the deal leaves with its own Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agreement, a rival to the TPP.