DA NANG (Sputnik) — The United States, which withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade agreement in early 2017, may rejoin it later if the remaining 11 parties manage to conclude a deal, two delegates at the APEC CEO summit in Da Nang told Sputnik.
Since Wednesday, the ministers of foreign affairs and trade of the TPP-11 countries have been discussing the future of the deal following the US withdrawal. Da Nang will also host a summit on Friday and Saturday, which all APEC leaders are expected to attend, including US President Donald Trump.
Robert Orr, former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, senior adviser to the International Law Institute, and now a delegate at the CEO summit, said that the US absence was problematic for the agreement.
"We were the initial leaders moving this forward. We also would prefer to see an open globalist regime for trade that hopefully has the US model as the lead," Orr said.
Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa, chairman and CEO of Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies as well as a delegate at the APEC CEO summit, admitted that the United States was one of the largest parties to the deal, "the economic core, in terms of investment and trade potential [of this agreement]."
"But I think it's possible for the other 11 to come up with something. Maybe it will be not everything that was agreed on the TPP-12, but it can be for them to be able to start with something, and then hopefully, later on, the US will come in again," Tan Sri Rastam said.
However, Orr believes that the Trump administration may become interested in the deal if it sees it moving forward successfully.
"The so-called TPP-11, if we are lucky, it could become an impetus for the Trump administration, if they see they are falling behind on it, to move forward It strikes me that any kind of a movement toward an open regime is positive, I support that," Orr said.
The delegate pointed out that he was not very confident that it would happen, but could not completely rule it out either, adding that he was not pinning a lot of hopes on Trump's participation in the APEC summit this Friday and Saturday.
Trump, who has shown preference for bilateral trade deals, said on Monday, during his visit to Japan, that the TPP was not the right solution and added that trade restrictions could be lifted in a different manner.
The TPP signed by 12 Pacific countries on February 2016 was criticized for undermining standards and regulations on environmental protection, health and safety, as well as workers’ rights, saying that the country would benefit more from bilateral deals rather than multilateral agreements, which put the future of the free trade project into question.