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Japan set to abandon TPP after US withdrawal

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Japan, the largest economy signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States, now seems unlikely proceed following the US decision to withdraw from the 12-nation trade deal.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week to take the US out of the pact – ignoring pleas from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to continue negotiations.

Abe held unofficial talks with Mr Trump in New York shortly after the election in November to try to persuade him to change his decision.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told a press conference on Tuesday that Japan is “not considering” proceeding with the TPP without the United States, which on its own accounts for over 60 percent of the signatories’ total gross domestic product.

At the same time, he said Japan had not given up on the deal and would continue to try to win the US president over.

“We believe that President Trump recognizes the importance of free and fair trade, and we want to take the time to seek his understanding on the strategic and economic significance the TPP holds,” Mr Hagiuda told the press conference.

Exchange of views

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken to Abe and counterparts in New Zealand and Singapore, both TPP signatories, about the possibility of moving forward with the pact without the US. 

The Japanese government said Abe and Turnbull had “exchanged views” on the TPP in a telephone call.

In a meeting with US business leaders on Monday, President Trump again blasted Japan on its trade practices, saying “it’s not fair” how the country does “things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan.”

Ironically, the removal of Japan’s non-tariff barriers on importing US vehicles was one of the benefits of the TPP the US Commerce Department had cited in its September 2016 report on the deal.

Former US President Barack Obama strongly supported the mega TPP trade deal, highlighting its potential economic benefits and advantages of new regional trade rules.

China, which was notably excluded from the pact, now appears to be a big winner.

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