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Without the US, 11 countries in TPP inch closer to a deal

TOKYO: The 11 nations remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States withdrew have inched closer to a comprehensive deal, offering hope that major countries can maintain free trade in the face of US protectionism, a negotiator said on Friday.

The original 12-member TPP, which aimed to cut trade barriers in some of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, was thrown into limbo in January when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritise protecting US jobs.

Negotiators met for two days in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, to discuss what parts of the original deal they wished to shelve, in a bid to salvage an ambitious vision for a free-trade bloc that originally included the United States.

The 11 TPP members agreed to meet again in Japan next month and aim to reach a broad agreement in November at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting set to be held in Vietnam’s central city of Danang.

“We made meaningful progress,” Japan’s chief TPP negotiator Kazuyoshi Umemoto, who chaired the two-day meeting, told reporters. “A TPP ministerial meeting is likely to be held on the sidelines of an Apec summit in Danang. Everyone has shown they are working hard to make sure we can achieve the best result possible.”

Japan wants to promote free trade by continuing with the TPP 11 deal to counter US protectionism and hopes Washington eventually rethinks Trump’s “America Frist” trade policy.

“The basic idea is that we would like the United States to come back as soon as possible, which would mean the original TPP would have to be ratified,” Umemoto said. — Reuters

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