11 nations sign Pacific trade pact while US plans tariffs

EU official warns of ‘arsenal' of measures to respond to Trump’s tariffs

Fresh produce companies and representative bodies are among those to welcome the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Chile on Thursday (8 March). The US withdrew from the earlier incarnation of the agreement shortly after US President Donald Trump was elected.

Mr Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership a year ago, prompting fears it would not prosper without its most influential country. The deal will reduce tariffs in countries that together amount to more than 13% of the global economy.

The other nations chose to move ahead without the United States, which was the largest economy in the pact.

The CPTPP deal was signed just before Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, setting up what many allies both at home and overseas warn could escalate into a global trade war. With the USA, the countries in the deal would have represented 40% of the global economy.

While in the north, trade barriers are going up, in South America on Thursday, 11 Pacific Rim countries committed to pulling them down, finally agreeing on a major free trade agreement.

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"We're proud.to show the world that progressive trade is the way forward, that fair, balanced, and principled trade is the way forward, and that putting citizens first is the way forward for the world when it comes to trade", Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne said.

"It's great to see growing worldwide acknowledgement and understanding that we need trade that works for everyone", Mr Parker says.

But Japan, a key driver behind the revised pact, is skeptical.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, she expressed her delight over the birth of the free trade agreement which is billed as an ambitious and strategic multi-lateral cooperation deal in the context of globalisation.

Analysts noted these provisions were not canceled, however, with some suggesting the door is being left ajar for the US. He said the move was aimed at protecting United States jobs.

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"The Australian grain industry already has preferential access into a number of TPP-11 countries because of existing trade agreements, such as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement".

"Into Japan, Australia is seeking to regain access for blueberries and improve market access for other horticulture commodities, including mangoes".

The signing of the CPTPP is another step along the road to its full implementation - it still has to be ratified by six countries.

The 11 countries involved in the CPTPP are New Zealand, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Viet Nam.

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