Final version of CPTPP trade deal released

Final version of landmark Asia-Pacific trade deal released a year after Trump withdrew from pact

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY: The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the Asia-Pacific's fastest-growing economies was released yesterday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without the United States.

More than 20 provisions have been suspended or changed in the final text ahead of the deal's official signing next month, including rules around intellectual property included at the behest of Washington.

The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement.

The 11 remaining nations, led by Japan, finalised a revised trade pact last month, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

It is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8.

The deal will reduce tariffs in economies that together amount to more than 13 per cent of the global GDP - a total of US$10 trillion (S$13.2 trillion).

With the US, it would have represented 40 per cent.

"The big changes with TPP 11 are the suspension of a whole lot of the provisions of the agreement. They have suspended many of the controversial ones, particularly around pharmaceuticals," said Prof Kimberlee Weatherall, professor of law at the University of Sydney.

Many of these changes were inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of the US , such as increased intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which some governments and activists worried would raise the cost of medicine.

The success of the deal has been touted by officials in Japan and other member countries as an antidote to counter growing US protectionism.

Last month, Mr Trump told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that it was possible Washington might return to the pact if it got a better deal.

But New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker said yesterday that the prospect of the US joining in the next couple of years was "very unlikely" and that even if Washington expressed a willingness to join CPTPP, there was no guarantee that the members would agree.

Governments were quick to tout the economic benefits of the agreement.

"(It) will help create new Australian jobs across all sectors - agriculture, manufacturing, mining, services - as it creates new opportunities in a free trade area that spans the Americas and Asia," said Australia's minister for trade, Mr Steven Ciobo.

New Zealand expects a boost of NZ$1.2 billion (S$1.2 billion) to NZ$4 billion a year, with beef and kiwifruit exporters among the top beneficiaries.

The 11 member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. - REUTERS