Japanese efforts to entice US back to embattled TPP trade pact appear to have failed

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/22 23:18:28

In the absence of the US, Japan - currently the largest economy among the 11 member countries left in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact - has been leading the way in salvaging the TPP. But skepticism remains about whether the deal can survive.

It seems that even Japan itself doesn't have much confidence in rescuing the TPP or it would not have repeatedly urged the US to rejoin the trade pact. Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said in an interview with CNBC that the door would always be open for the US return to the TPP.

The remark came after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Sunday that the US would not change its decision to pull out of the TPP, signalling that Japan's efforts have failed. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said that it was his "strong wish" that the US could return to the TPP. In the past, Abe stated several times that the TPP would be meaningless without US participation.

Japan's repeated efforts to bring the US back to the TPP highlight the impasse now faced by the pact. The current TPP members were mainly brought together by the US market, and none of them have such a massive market to digest other members' exports, so the TPP risks falling apart or existing only in name because the fundamental benefits of the deal are gone without the US. Recent media reports said that Malaysia and Vietnam are considering renegotiation of the TPP deal as they cannot get better US market access under the pact.

Some people have suggested that with the US having stepped back, there is potential for China to join the TPP, as it also has a market big enough to rescue the pact.

But it should be pointed out that China not only has a big consumer market, but also eagerly wants to boost its own exports. Also, China is pushing forward with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and is busily engaged in implementation of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative. There is actually no need for China to spend extra time and effort on a struggling trade deal that was originally designed to counter its trade relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan would be better off getting back to the negotiation table with China on B&R cooperation or joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, instead of persevering with the TPP or planning some counter-strategy with India against China.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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