Trans-Pacific Partnership moving ahead without US

"At the meeting with USTR Lighthizer yesterday, we shared our mutual interest in strengthening trade and economic links between our two countries", Mr Seko said.

The Reagan-era trade veteran has been tasked with renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - another deal Trumped promised to pull out of, though he later backpedaled after speaking to the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

At an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting today, the US ruled out returning to the TPP trade deal and added that it only wanted bilateral agreements in Asia.

He said China was a firm advocate of the RCEP agreement and noted that the countries engaged in the talks are now the world's most dynamic economies and cover the largest population.

Malaysia's Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed walks to the meeting room during the APEC Ministers Responsible For Trade (APEC MRT 23) meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam May 21, 2017.

"In particular, both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation to address common concerns with respect to unfair trade practices utilized by third-countries", it said. Keeping Vietnam and Malaysia on board is a priority for the Pacific region, as the two countries agreed to the TPP in hopes of gaining better access to the USA market.

Although the TPP members kept the trade agreement alive, they did not give a wholehearted commitment to advance immediately with a deal that members also see as a way to contain an increasingly dominant China.

The U.S. broke away from the 20 other members of APEC, opposing the statement "protectionist trends that could have strong impacts on the process of global economic recovery and economic integration".

After the Sunday morning meeting, the Australian minister for trade, tourism and investment, Steve Ciobo, said: "It's important to leave the door open to the United States".

One of the biggest challenges of the TPP is keeping on board Vietnam and Malaysia, which signed up for the deal and promised to make major reforms largely to get better United States market access.

Mr Ciobo said the agreement vindicated the Coalition's strategy after Mr Trump's inauguration of maintaining Australia's involvement in the TPP.

Trump favours bilateral trade deals over the ambitious multilateral pacts of Barack Obama's administration, which included the sprawling 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Instead, there was one statement from the Vietnamese chairman of the talks, Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh, and a separate joint "Actions Statement".

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo says a trans-Pacific trade liberalisation push that was portrayed as dead and buried by the opposition after the election of Donald Trump as US President has been revitalised over the weekend.

That statement mentioned topics such as sustainable growth, small businesses and technical co-operation.

Lighthizer's main focus in Hanoi was one-on-one meetings with key partners, reflecting the shift under Trump's "America First" policy to bilateral deals.

The 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is poised to become the largest free trade agreement in the world, covering about half of its population.



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