Brexit: Liz Truss discusses benefits of UK joining the CPTPP
The TPP was the centrepiece of President Barack Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia. Before President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017, on his third day in office, the TPP was set to become the world’s largest free trade deal, covering 40 percent of the global economy. For its supporters, such a deal would have expanded US trade and investment abroad, spurred economic growth, lowered consumer prices, and created new jobs, while also advancing US strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, its critics, including Mr Trump, saw the deal as likely to accelerate US decline in manufacturing, lower wages, and increase inequality.
With the US on the sidelines, the remaining TPP countries forged ahead with a new version of the pact, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), keeping most of the original intact.
Mr Trump suggested in early 2018 that he would be willing to reenter TPP discussions under certain conditions, but he quickly backtracked.
Many believe that now US President Joe Biden has moved into the Oval Office, the US could soon rejoin.
When asked about it in 2019, Mr Biden criticised Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw, as he argued that by doing so, he allowed China to get into the driver’s seat.
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He said: “When it comes to trade, either we’re going to write the rules of the road for the world or China is – and not in a way that advances our values.
“That’s what happened when we backed out of TPP – we put China in the driver’s seat.
“That’s not good for our national security or for our workers.
“TPP wasn’t perfect but the idea behind it was a good one: to unite countries around high standards for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and transparency, and use our collective weight to curb China’s excesses.”
He then added: “Going forward, my focus will be on rallying our friends in both Asia and Europe in setting the rules of the road for the 21st century and joining us to get tough on China and its trade and technology abuses.
“That’s much more effective than President Trump’s so-called America First approach that in practice is America Alone, alienating our allies and undermining the power of our collective leverage.
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“My trade policy will also start at home, by investing in strengthening our greatest asset — our middle class.
“I would not sign any new trade deal until we have made major investments in our workers and infrastructure.
“Nor would I sign a deal that does not include representatives for labour and the environment at the negotiating table and strong protections for our workers.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Jonathan Aronson, a trade expert and Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at USC Dornsife, echoed Mr Biden’s claims, as he also believes it was a “terrible mistake” for Mr Trump to withdraw from the trade partnership.
Professor Aronson argued that by joining the TPP, the US President could have arguably taken on China’s unfair trade practices and secure America’s economic role in Asia.
He said: “I was a big supporter of the TPP.
“Trump pulled out and it was a terrible mistake because it empowered China.
“It also took away a lot of incentive for Vietnam to behave.
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“Vietnamese behaviour has not been as good.
“What they were trying to get was access to US markets.”
Prof Aronson added: “I think there might be an effort to rejoin in the future if Joe Biden wins the election.
“However, it will not be a year one priority.
“It is not easy to join something you have left.”
Yesterday, the UK announced it will apply to join the 11-nation free trade area.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “In future it’s going to be Asia-Pacific countries in particular where the big markets are, where growing middle-class markets are, for British products.
“Of course British businesses will have to reach out and take these opportunities, but what I’m doing is I’m creating the opportunities, the low tariffs, removing those barriers so they can go out and do that.”
Joining the bloc would reduce tariffs on UK exports such as whisky and cars, as well as service industries, she said.
However, the immediate impact is likely to be modest as the UK already has free trade deals in place with several CPTPP members, some of which were rolled over from its EU membership.
The UK is negotiating deals with Australia and New Zealand.
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