Civil Liberties Australiaspacer

By Dr Pat Ranald*
Japan is pushing for a revival of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and will lead efforts towards implementing it without the USA due to President’s Trump’s rejection of the deal.

The Japan move is not a new idea: Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo called for a TPP-minus one shortly after the US formally withdrew from the agreement.

However, as the biggest remaining TPP economy now that the US has withdrawn, Japan’s recent push is cause for concern. According to the Australian Financial Review and the Bangkok Post, a meeting of senior TPP officials will be held in Canada in early May 2017 to discuss the next steps, followed by ministerial discussions on the fringes of the APEC meeting in Vietnam on 20-21 May.

Since the TPP in its current form cannot proceed without ratification by the US, there are three possible scenarios:

  • Remaining TPP countries do not agree to proceed: A TPP minus the US would have far fewer market access benefits for many of the remaining countries while still containing many damaging rules on medicines, copyright and investor rights to sue governments.
  • TPP countries agree but want to renegotiate: Even if the remaining countries do agree to proceed with a TPP without the US they are likely to try to make major changes to the text, given that many made concessions in order to gain access to US markets which the deal will now not deliver.
  • TPP countries agree to proceed with no major changes: At a minimum, the current TPP text requires US participation, and would need to be changed in order for a TPP without the US to proceed. This would mean it would become an entirely new agreement and would have to go through parliamentary processes again in each country. This is an unlikely but extremely concerning scenario because it would lock in the TPP’s damaging clauses and deliver even fewer market access benefits (which for Australia were already negligible).

Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has praised Japan’s push to revive the deal – despite a Senate inquiry rejecting the current TPP’s implementing legislation.

Senate inquiry report

* Dr Ranald runs AFTINET, the trade-union affiliated body which monitors trade agreements. Photo shows her addressing a forum on the TPP in Canberra.

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