Sunday, November 13, 2016

TPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, before Trump even takes office

Eight years in the making, the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal between Australia, the US and 10 other regional powers is as good as dead after the Obama administration walked away from its plan to put it before the "lame duck" Congress ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration as president.

Controversial in Australia because it would allow US-headquartered corporations to sue Australian governments in extraterritorial tribunals and entrench pharmaceutical monopolies and copyright rules, the TPP was the subject of a last-minute plea by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to president-elect Donald Trump in their 15-minute phone conversation on Thursday.

It has been signed by each of the member countries - Australia, the US, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam - but ratified by none.

Other members including Australia were waiting for a decision from the US because the rules require ratification by members accounting for 85 per cent of the the agreement's gross domestic product, meaning it can't come into force without the US as the other members combined have only 43 per cent.

Over the weekend the Senate's top Democrat Charles Schumer told union leaders the deal would not be ratified. House of Representatives Republican speaker Paul Ryan, who has in the past supported the TPP, said the "votes aren't there" to pass it.

Mr Trump made opposing the TPP a key part of his campaign, saying America did "not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down". Democrats members of Congress were never keen, opposing by a wide margin President Barack Obama's negotiating mandate which only passed into law with the support of Republicans.

On Sunday Australia's trade minister Steven Ciobo questioned whether it would be worthwhile concluding the agreement without the US, even if it was possible.

"In theory, yes," he told the ABC's Insiders. "but is there enough merit to look at a trade deal among the 11 of us? It changes the metrics substantially."

Mr Ciobo will hold discussions about the future of the agreement at the APEC leaders summit in Lima, Peru on Thursday which will be attended by Mr Turnbull on Sunday.

The US decision leaves two Australian parliamentary inquiries in limbo. The joint standing committee on treaties finished hearing evidence just before Mr Trump's election and has not yet produced a report. The Senate inquiry has yet to call witnesses.

Sydney Morning Herald

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