Australia and New Zealand said on Tuesday they hope to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact after U.S. President Donald Trump kept a promise to abandon the accord.
The TPP, which the United States had signed but not ratified, was a pillar of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy to pivot to Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it as an engine of economic reform, as well as a counter-weight to a rising China, which is not a TPP member.
Fulfilling a campaign pledge, Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Monday pulling the United States out of the 2015 TPP agreement and distancing the United States from its Asian allies.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had held discussions with Abe, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong overnight about the possibility of proceeding without the United States.
“Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. “But we are not about to walk away … certainly there is potential for China to join the TPP.”
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not say directly whether China would be interested in joining the TPP but that at a time of economic uncertainly the Asia-Pacific should make its own contributions to growth with openness.
“We think that in the present situation, no matter what happens, all should keep going down the path of open, inclusive, continuous development, seeking cooperation and win-win,” Hua told a daily news briefing.
Obama had framed the TPP without China in an effort to write Asia’s trade rules before Beijing could, establishing U.S. economic leadership in the region as part of his “pivot to Asia”.
China has proposed a counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and has championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).