Trump Pacific Partnership? New Zealand PM’s idea to save TPP

John Key at Apec summit jokes cosmetic changes could appease US president-elect over sweeping trade deal

The threatened TPP trade pact could be rebadged as the Trump Pacific Partnership to satisfy the US president-elect who has vowed to scrap it, New Zealands prime minister has said.

John Key suggested cosmetic changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that the US could be kept on board under Donald Trump, who has attacked free trade deals.

The Trump Pacific Partnership for instance, thatd be fine, said Key, with a laugh, during Apec talks in Lima, Peru.

Key said the US was an important partner in the region but China would fill the void if a Trump administration backed away from free trade.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, pledged at the Lima summit to pursue further economic openness regardless of Trumps policies. The Republican, who will take over from Barack Obama has attacked China for taking away US business and jobs.

China will not shut its door to the outside world but open more, Xi said in a keynote address. Were going to make sure the fruits of development are shared.

Following a meeting with Barack Obama in Lima, Xi said Beijings relationship with Washington was at a hinge moment and called for a smooth transition.

Obama has championed the TPP as a way to counter Chinas rise but has stopped trying to win congressional approval for the deal signed by 12 economies in the Americas and Asia-Pacific, excluding China. Without US approval, the current agreement cannot be implemented.

Xi has been selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which as it stands excludes the Americas.

With the fate of the TPP uncertain, Chinas talks on RCEP, which include Australia, India and more than a dozen other countries, are seen as perhaps the only path to the broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) that Apec aspires to.

The Obama administration has warned that the RCEP would not include strong protections for workers, the environment or intellectual property.

The Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told reporters of RCEP: Its a more traditional trade deal, reducing tariffs on goods and services. Its not as far-reaching as the TPP.

But the more access we can get to more markets for our exports, the better, Turnbull said.

Despite Chinas overtures, some Apec members were determined to press on with TPP and held out hopes the United States would still show leadership on trade.

Our geopolitical position is with the United States, obviously, said the Mexican president, Enrique Pea Nieto. Thats where our eyes are set and thats what we are working for.

Several Apec members said it was too soon to write off support from Trump on TPP.

Barack Obama was not a supporter of the TPP when he became elected and hes leaving office as one of its greatest advocates, Turnbull said.

With Reuters

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