11 countries sign historic free trade deal

Australia among 11 countries to sign TPP without US

Ministers from all 11 countries, which together represent 495 million people and have a combined GDP of $13.5 trillion, or 13 per cent of global GDP, will officially sign the CPTPP at a ceremony in Santiago, Chile, on March 8. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement that includes the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Chile did not give up and promoted a meeting in ViƱa del Mar in 2017, and Japan, one of the colossuses of the world economy, closed ranks to boost the pact, which was renamed TPP-11. These governments agreed on its content January 23 and by February 21 its 30 chapters were released to the public.

Just after his swearing in January 2017, protectionist president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the multinational trade agreement before it was implemented claiming it would hurt its workers and companies. Singapore's hope is that the CPTPP and RCEP can be stepping stones to its "end-goal" of a wider free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, Mr Lim said last week.

But the remaining countries regrouped and that culminated in the signing Thursday.

The CPTPP took out approximately 20 clauses from the TPP agreement, mainly over intellectual property regulations that had been demanded by the now absent U.S.

Heraldo Munoz, Chile's minister of foreign affairs, said the agreement was a strong signal "against protectionist pressures, in favour of a world open to trade, without unilateral sanctions and without the threat of trade wars".

The TTP-11, as the treaty is also known, has several detractors within civil society, but experts and government from all signing countries agree that it is one of the most audacious and beneficial deals reached in the world.

In about 60 days, after being ratified by six of its 11 members, the CPTPP will come into force, so the dynamics of Chile, Mexico and Peru will have great benefits.

Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne signed on behalf of Canada and Friday he will head to Paraguay to kindle free trade talks with the Mercosur group.

The deal will be finalized in the same week that Trump has risked a global trade war over his decision to introduce tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Last month, Trump told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the USA might return if it got a better deal. However, New Zealand's trade minister said that was unlikely in the near term, while Japan has said altering the agreement now would be very hard.

"In the absence of CPTPP, we have been losing significant market share in countries where our competitors have preferential access - particularly Australia's beef access into Japan".


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