Pacific meeting puts Trump's trade turmoil center stage

Pacific Rim trade ministers meeting in Vietnam committed Sunday to move ahead with the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact after the United States pulled out.

But the differing visions are evident in the discussions on the sidelines.

Māori health workers along with worldwide health organisations are calling on the remaining trade ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to stop revival talks.

The meeting in Hanoi will see the newly sworn in trade representative of the US Robert Lighthizer hold individual meetings with its partners.

"I've been meeting individually with ministers from each of the remaining TPP countries".

But when Donald Trump became US president four months ago, one of his first acts was to pull out of the deal.

Officials said Southeast Asia still has significant points of disagreement on RCEP with China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

That trade deal covers only Asian countries, not the United States.

After the meeting with Ishihara, Steven Ciobo, the Australian trade, tourism and investment minister, told reporters that enforcement of the pact by 11 countries would bring benefits to every participating country and accelerate their economic growth, emphasizing the significance of implementing the pact without the United States.

Trump has been sticking to his tough approach, demanding "free and fair trade" via a withdrawal from the TPP, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) between the US, Canada and Mexico, and engaging in direct talks with major trading partners in an effort to reduce the US' US$750 billion trade deficit and stop jobs from being lost overseas to lower-cost manufacturing nations.

Canada and Mexico are at the Asia-Pacific meetings and are also in the North American trade area. The RCEP has been advocated and championed by China as an alternative deal to guarantee economic growth while U.S. liberal rhetoric takes aim at the Trump administration's expressed anti-globalisation and protectionist sentiments.

"We are very prepared, and we are taking that very seriously, but we'll put things on the table when it comes to the time to negotiate", he said.

With the TPP without US participation, RCEP would be the world's largest free regional trade pact, even though it has fewer requirements compared with TPP in terms of labor rights, intellectual property rights and environmental protection.

Leaders from 21 APEC economies, including Trump, are set to meet in the Vietnamese beach town of Danang in November.

"It's clear that each country is having to consider both economic values and strategic importance of this agreement, but in the end there is a lot of unity among all of the countries and a great desire to work together to come up with an agreement among 11 that not only delivers for all of our economies and the people of our countries, it's also open to others countries in the world to join if they can meet the high standards in the TPP agreement", McClay told reporters. New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said he did not expect a big decision this weekend on how to go forward with the agreement, but hoped for a commitment on working out how to do so.

Since the U.S withdrawal, Japan and New Zealand have been spearheading efforts to revive the deal.

  • Leroy Wright