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Australia tries to save TPP after Trump exits deal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australia says it is working to recast the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the US.

Australia is suggesting the idea of a "TPP 12 minus one", with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying his government was in "active discussions" with other signatories including Japan, New Zealand and Singapore on how to save the pact.

"It is possible that US policy could change over time on this, as it has done on other trade deals," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. He added that Trump’s nominee for US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Republicans supported the TPP.

"There is also the opportunity for the TPP to proceed without the US. Certainly there is the potential for China to join the TPP," he said.

TPP included a dozen Asia-Pacific countries accounting for 40 percent of the global economy, but the US President Donald Trump "terminated" it in line with his election pledges to scrap the "job killer" pact. The agreement was viewed as a counter to China's rising economic influence. It was signed last year but has not gone into effect.

Earlier, Australia’s Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said Australia, Canada, Mexico and others had discussed the possibility of a pact without the US at a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Davos.

"There would be scope for China if we were able to reformulate it to be a TPP 12 minus one, for countries like Indonesia or China or indeed other countries to consider joining," Ciobo said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English noted that Beijing "hasn't been slow to spot the opportunity" to cast itself as a free trade supporter.

China has long been noncommittal on the idea of joining the TPP. The country decided to back an alternative trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a more modest deal that calls for lower and more limited regulatory standards.

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