22 May 2017

Moves to keep TPP alive

8:41 am on 22 May 2017

Countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have agreed to look at ways to move the trade deal forward without the United States, which has withdrawn.

Prime Minister Bill English, left, with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint news conference at Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Wednedsay.

Prime Minister Bill English, left, with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after talks where Mr Abe expressed his commitment to the TPP. Photo: AFP

In his first week as US President, Donald Trump pulled out of the multinational trade deal in favour of an 'America First' policy and bilateral agreements.

A joint statement released in Hanoi by 11 countries, including New Zealand, keeps the agreement alive but falls short of a wholehearted commitment to implement it immediately.

It comes as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed commitment to the trade deal during talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English.

Trade Minister Todd McClay said the countries have shown a lot of unity as they look to put the agreement into force.

A statement from the group said their ongoing work would address "concern about protectionism" and maintaining open markets.

Mr English told Morning Report that depending on the make-up of the next New Zealand government the new agreement may not need to be revisited after the election.

"I think the issue is whether the other parties - regardless of whether we're required to go back to parliament - whether the other political parties support it or not."

"They've been conspicuous by their silence, but we believe it's worth New Zealand - for both the immediate trade and the longer term strategic benefits - for us to pursue this agreement."

One of the biggest challenges is keeping on board Vietnam and Malaysia, which signed up for the deal and promised to make major reforms largely to gain better US market access.

"We will need to ensure that our interests remain protected and the benefits derived from it still outweigh the costs," Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said.

The volume of trade between the remaining countries is barely a quarter of the level it would have been if the United States had remained in the TPP.

Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey, who is a major critic of the deal, said by trying to push forward with the deal, Mr McClay was setting the scene for a capitulation to US demands if it chooses to be part of the agreement again.

Officials from TPP countries will next meet again in Japan in July.

Reuters / RNZ

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