U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said at a news conference on Sunday that the United States has officially pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Speaking in Hanoi, Lighthizer told listeners in Vietnam, “The United States pulled out of the TPP and it’s not going to change that decision. That does not mean we will not engage in this region.” Lighthizer was attending a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries.
China, which has long greater economic cooperation between the Asian countries and the United States, welcomed the news. Beijing is pushing its own free-trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to bring together the Asian sphere.
“The president made a decision that I certainly agree with – that bilateral negotiations are better for the United States than multilateral negotiations,” Lighthizer said. “I believe at some point there will be a series of bilateral agreements with partners in this part of the world.”
The remaining 11 countries in TPP announced that they are looking forward to moving onward with the trade deal, even without American involvement. The remaining countries in TPP, are “going to put forward proposals on how to take TPP forward in November,” said New Zealand’s trade minister Todd McClay.
Trump signed an executive order on January 23, which withdrew the United States from the TPP trade deal.
Australian trade minister Steve Ciobo said that his country will “leave the door open to the United States.” He said, “It may not suit US interests at this point in time to be part of the TPP but circumstances might change in the future.” TPP was negotiated over a period of five years, covering 40 percent of the global economy before the United States pulled out.
However, even while representatives of the 11 remaining signatories of TPP released a statement affirming their commitment, America's pull-out from the deal may hamper China's ambitions for its regional economic cooperation zone. Writing at Forbes, Prof. Alex Capri of the University of Singpore wrote:
"But the revival of the TPP could undermine the influence of the RCEP—something Japan is working hard to achieve. Not only is the RCEP seen as a policy tool to promote Beijing’s geopolitical agenda, it lacks the depth and quality of the TPP. Besides being full-fledged members of the TPP, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and others, are also members of the RCEP. As elements of the RCEP are still being negotiated, Beijing may be forced to accept higher, more demanding trade standards, with the revived TPP serving as a benchmark."
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