Asia seeks new trade deals after Trump dumps TPP

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Southeast Asian countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, are now looking for alternative solutions after new US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the grouping. It is widely acknowledged that without Washington’s participation, the TPP would have to be renegotiated or scrapped altogether.

Opposition to the TPP was one of the key topics of Trump’s presidential campaign, with the billionaire businessman calling the trade pact a potential disaster for the US. He said he would prefer bilateral trade deals with individual TPP countries instead.

While other leading member nations such as Australia and Japan signaled they would renegotiate the pact without the US and even consider inviting China to join, Southeast Asian members expressed their disappointment.

Malaysia’s International Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed on January 24 issued a statement that said it will be a “missed opportunity” for Malaysia if the TPP fails to materialise. Malaysia, which is a large palm oil exporter to the US, would have to focus on other trade pacts and on enhancing regional economic integration within the ASEAN Economic Community, as well as seeking tighter cooperation with Europe, Africa, Iran and other Asian countries.

A spokesperson of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said that without the participation of the US, the TPP agreement as signed cannot come into effect. Thus, Singapore will focus on other regional integration initiatives, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

“We will have to discuss the way forward with the other TPP partners,” the spokesman said, adding that “each of the partners will have to carefully study the new balance of benefits.”

Vietnam, which was seen as the largest TPP profiteer within Southeast Asia as the pact would have given the country access to North American markets for textiles and electronics, is also disappointed, but has already explored avenues for alternative trade pacts with Japan, Russia and China.

A viable solution could be a clear-cut partnership within the RCEP, which covers Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.  Continued growth of RCEP member countries., particularly China, India and Indonesia could see total GDP in RCEP grow to over $100 trillion by 2050, roughly double the project size of TPP economies.

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Southeast Asian countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, are now looking for alternative solutions after new US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the grouping. It is widely acknowledged that without Washington’s participation, the TPP would have to be renegotiated or scrapped altogether. Opposition to the TPP was one of the key topics of Trump’s presidential campaign, with the billionaire businessman calling the trade pact a “potential disaster” for the US. He said he would prefer bilateral trade deals with individual TPP countries instead. While other leading member nations such as...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Southeast Asian countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, are now looking for alternative solutions after new US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the grouping. It is widely acknowledged that without Washington’s participation, the TPP would have to be renegotiated or scrapped altogether.

Opposition to the TPP was one of the key topics of Trump’s presidential campaign, with the billionaire businessman calling the trade pact a potential disaster for the US. He said he would prefer bilateral trade deals with individual TPP countries instead.

While other leading member nations such as Australia and Japan signaled they would renegotiate the pact without the US and even consider inviting China to join, Southeast Asian members expressed their disappointment.

Malaysia’s International Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed on January 24 issued a statement that said it will be a “missed opportunity” for Malaysia if the TPP fails to materialise. Malaysia, which is a large palm oil exporter to the US, would have to focus on other trade pacts and on enhancing regional economic integration within the ASEAN Economic Community, as well as seeking tighter cooperation with Europe, Africa, Iran and other Asian countries.

A spokesperson of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said that without the participation of the US, the TPP agreement as signed cannot come into effect. Thus, Singapore will focus on other regional integration initiatives, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

“We will have to discuss the way forward with the other TPP partners,” the spokesman said, adding that “each of the partners will have to carefully study the new balance of benefits.”

Vietnam, which was seen as the largest TPP profiteer within Southeast Asia as the pact would have given the country access to North American markets for textiles and electronics, is also disappointed, but has already explored avenues for alternative trade pacts with Japan, Russia and China.

A viable solution could be a clear-cut partnership within the RCEP, which covers Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.  Continued growth of RCEP member countries., particularly China, India and Indonesia could see total GDP in RCEP grow to over $100 trillion by 2050, roughly double the project size of TPP economies.

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