TPP-11 to move forward; United States to focus on bilateral negotiations and NAFTA

Trade ministers from 11 signatory countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met on May 21, 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam, to discuss the future of the agreement during an Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

Although TPP was signed by 12 Pacific Rim nations in February 2016, the United States withdrew from the agreement in January 2017. Since then, Japan and New Zealand have led efforts for TPP to enter into force between the 11 remaining signatories, which account for 13.5 per cent of the global economy (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam).

The ministers agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring TPP-11 into force expeditiously. The assessment is to be concluded before the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting on November 10–11, 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Robert Lighthizer, who took office as U.S. Trade Representative on May 15, 2017, defended the U.S. withdrawal. “The president made the decision, which I certainly agree with, that bilateral negotiation is better for the United States than multilateral negotiations,” he said in Hanoi.

Lighthizer also notified the U.S. Congress on May 18, 2017 of President Trump’s intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), initiating a 90-day congressional consultation period. The broadly-stated objective of the renegotiation is to modernize NAFTA by including provisions on intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, services, labour, environment and other areas. Negotiations with Canada and Mexico are expected to start in August, and the USTR hopes to complete them by the end of 2017.