Asia Minute: Trade, Not Tariffs for Latest Asia Pacific Deal

EU strikes back with first anti Trump commercial retaliation

After years of often rocky negotiations, the 11 members of a Trans Pacific trade pact officially signed the agreement in Chile on Thursday.

Chile's Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz said the signing of the pact is "extremely timely" in the face of "protectionist pressures and pressures that could end up in what nobody wants, which is a trade war".

The 11 CPTPP state members represent a market of 500 million people, greater than that of the European Union's single market.

Moody's said on Friday (Mar 9) that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will provide Malaysia with export access into new markets, including Canada, Peru and Mexico, and will benefit palm oil, rubber and electronics exporters.

Mustapa said CPTPP will open up the door for more Malaysian companies to expand their presence beyond the borders of our country as well as strengthening Malaysia's position as a premier investment destination - which will eventually create additional quality jobs for the people.

It will slash tariffs and foster trade in a marketplace worth close to around US$13.5trn.

But it also seeks to reduce so-called non-tariff measures, which create obstacles to trade through regulations. The pact also included New Zealand and Peru.

In Chile, the worlds largest ever regional trade agreement, TPP-11, has been signed by Australia yesterday, allowing Australian producers to have new and better access to global markets.

The US is conspicuously absent. The revised negotiations was necessary following the withdrawal of the United States from the original pact shortly after President Donald Trump took office in January a year ago.

Textiles, footwear and beverages are expected to enjoy the biggest boost thanks to the lower tariffs.

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Moodys said, citing PIIE, CPTPP will generate real income gains of US$157 billion for member countries, compared with US$465 billion from the original TPP. "However, we know these tariffs will be catastrophic for the USA economy and jobs", the United States Fashion Industry Association said in a statement following the tariff announcement Thursday.

Touted as a "21st century" free trade initiative, the CPTPP not only removes tariffs and barriers to trade but also covers environmental protection and labor rights.

The deal's best feature was that it would have forced China to play by the TPP rules in a market that would have constituted 40 percent of the world's economy.

"This is a very good day for trade", said Steven Ciobo, Australia's trade minister.

The revised agreement eliminates some requirements of the original TPP demanded by U.S. negotiators, including rules to ramp up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals.

In January 2017, Trump withdrew the United States from TPP discussions before it became law, arguing that it was an unfair deal for the country.

Sure, why not? There's nothing banning it, even if most of the members are on the other side of the world.

Australia, at least, has indicated that it's open to the idea, and the UK's International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, has signalled some interest in joining after the United Kingdom completes its departure from the EU.

That's because the region isn't a major destination for United Kingdom exports.

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