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TPP Will Forge Ahead and the US Won’t Rejoin It

Though TPP remains dead for the United States, it’s still very much alive for the 11 remaining Pacific Rim countries that have agreed to carry it forward.

At a meeting in Vietnam Sunday, Pacific Rim trade ministers committed to pressing ahead with the TPP without the U.S.

As New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay said, according to the Associated Press, “It’s clear that each country is having to consider both economic values and strategic importance of this agreement, but in the end there is a lot of unity among all of the countries and a great desire to work together to come up with an agreement among 11 that not only delivers for all of our economies and the people of our countries, it’s also open to others in the world to join if they can meet the high standards in the TPP agreement.”

It’s also still open to the U.S. should it change its mind, McClay said, but that’s looking like a firm no from the U.S. side.

President Trump pulled the U.S. from TPP in January, and though there may have been hopes the U.S. might reconsider its position in the trade deal if whatever necessary adjustments had been made, the new U.S. trade rep shut that idea down altogether.

On Sunday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said trade will be dealt with on a “bilateral basis.”

“The president made the decision [to exit TPP], which I certainly agree with, that bilateral negotiation is better for the United States than multilateral negotiations,” AP reported Lighthizer as saying, and he added, “But we certainly expect to stay engaged and I believe that at some point there’ll be series of bilateral agreements with willing partners in this part of the world.”

For now, TPP will require some amending before it can go much of anywhere as the deal still requires U.S. participation before it can take effect. The agreement stipulates that at least six of the TPP’s signatories, which combined must account for 85 percent of the collective GDP, have to agree to the deal in order for it to move forward. And with the remaining 11 nations accounting for just 13.5% of the GDP, it would be impossible for TPP to take effect if that threshold isn’t adjusted.

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The 11 countries have said they agree to begin assessing options for bringing the agreement into force “expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories,” AP reported.

President Obama had been pushing the TPP as a way to temper China’s growing reach in the region, and with the country’s alt-TPP deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RPEC), there’s little telling what will become of China trade influence. Talks on the RPEC trade deal—which includes the 10 ASEAN nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six countries ASEAN has free trade deals with: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand—are expected to be finalized by the end of this year.