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"When President Trump pulled out of his predecessor’s signature trade deal on his first full weekday in office, the 11 other countries that had negotiated the pact were left wondering if years of work had just gone down the drain. This week, those countries indicated that they wanted to press ahead with the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a sweeping multinational trade agreement that had originally been sold as a way to tether the United States more closely to East Asia and to create an economic bloc capable of standing against an increasingly muscular China. At a meeting in Hakone, a resort town south of Tokyo, Japan led trade negotiators from the 11 countries — including Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam — in discussions about reviving rules that would improve labor conditions and increase protections for intellectual property in some countries, while opening more markets to free trade in agricultural products and digital services around the region. Japan’s effort to salvage the deal reflects a growing recognition that countries that have previously counted on American leadership will have to forge ahead on their own. In Japan, officials are particularly eager to pre-empt China’s attempt to forge a rival trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. That deal would bring together 16 countries, including the ones in the TPP, albeit under considerably less stringent rules. Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Japan’s chief negotiator, told reporters that the group of 11 “achieved mutual understanding on a path forward” without the United States. “We need a new international agreement,” Mr. Umemoto said. “I think we have reached a rough picture of what it will be like.” Momentum for such deals has built in recent weeks, as big American allies have pledged their commitment to globalization...Japan’s goal is to preserve as much of the original deal as possible in the hope that the United States will eventually rejoin. “We should welcome the United States when the United States decides to come back at some time in the future,” said Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to Washington. Some observers see those hopes as naïve. “I think it’s simply wishful thinking that the Trump administration will change its mind about the TPP,” said Takuji Okubo, managing director and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors. “So long as he remains the president, I don’t think he will actually make that turnaround.”"

Posted July 14th, 2017