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TPP pushes ahead as Trump rethinks pullout

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo says a new TPP deal won’t be changed to appease the United States.Australia has welcomed signs the US may seek to re-join a Pacific trade deal, but won’t put the latest agreement on hold while Donald Trump makes up his mind.

A White House spokesman confirmed the president – who pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year – had assigned his top trade advisers, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his new chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, “to take another look at whether or not a better deal could be negotiated”.

However, Mr Trump tweeted on Friday he would only join the TPP “if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama”.

“We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!” he wrote.

Australia’s Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said while US interest was welcome, the TPP 11 – as they are now known – were on track to bring the agreement into effect by the start of 2019.

“We’ve got a deal, it’s a good deal, 11 countries have signed up and we are all working to put the deal into effect,” Mr Ciobo told reporters on the Gold Coast on Friday.

“I can’t see that all being thrown open now to appease the United States.”

But he said the agreement partners, who had “little appetite for substantial negotiation”, would welcome the US coming back to the table.

“We will have discussions.”

The TPP 11 countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

The text of the agreement has been tabled in the Australian parliament and two committees are examining it.

A national interest analysis showed the deal would significantly enhance Australia’s economic relationships.

Australian Greens trade spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said reports of Mr Trump taking fresh interest in the deal were bad news.

“Many of the worst features of the first dud deal were put on ice as an attempt to build a new deal out of the rubble. But everything that’s on ice gets defrosted if the US comes back to the table,” she said.

She said longer monopoly rights on medicines would punish Australians suffering from conditions like cancer or rheumatoid arthritis by making medicine more expensive.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso was cautious about the president’s decision.

Trump “is a person who could change temperamentally, so he may say something different the next day”, Mr Aso said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mr Trump are expected to discuss the TPP at their summit meeting next week.

Australian Associated Press

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