Trade ministers agree Asia-Pacific trade pact without US
Trade ministers agree Asia-Pacific trade pact without US
Trump pulled his country from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the start of the year, dismaying allies and casting into doubt an agreement heralded for tying lower tariffs to strong environmental and labor protections.
He has been something of a lone protectionist voice at the APEC summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang where world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, have been keen to promote the virtues of free trade and multilateral deals.
In a joint statement Saturday morning, the remaining countries — dubbed the TPP-11 — said they had “agreed on the core elements” of a deal at the sidelines of the APEC summit in the Vietnamese city of Danang, after days of stalled talks raised fears it could collapse altogether.
The ministers said further talks would be needed to reach a full consensus before inking the deal, which now carries an even longer official name — the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Japan’s lead negotiator Toshimitsu Motegi said the remaining members would still welcome the US back into their pact.
“This time all the 11 countries are on board and this would send out a very strong positive message to the United States and other Asia Pacific countries in the region,” he said.
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s trade minister, described the breakthrough in a tweet as “big progress.”
Canada had held out to maintain environmental and labor protections linked to freer markets in the deal.
Those elements were thrown into jeopardy by America’s sudden withdrawal from the deal earlier this year.
Canada had dug in over those progressive clauses. But they are much less attractive to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Peru now that the carrot of access to the huge US market has been pulled.
Trump’s election has upended years of American-led moves to open up global trade.
The US president is among leaders attending the APEC summit in Danang and on Friday he ladled out more of his trademark “America First” rhetoric.
In a strident address he said his country will “no longer tolerate” unfair trade, closed markets and intellectual property theft.
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of any more,” he added, taking a swipe at multilateral trade deals.
Shortly after, China’s Xi offered a starkly different vision, casting his country as the new global leader for free trade.
Beijing is not included in the TPP, a deal initially driven through by the former US administration as a counterweight to surging Chinese power in Asia.
China has since sought to fill the free trade gap left by the US, even if much of its own market remains protected.
Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has been particularly active in pushing for a swift consensus on TPP, fearful that delays could lead to the collapse of the pact after years of negotiations and hand more regional influence to China.
But Canada has pushed back against a quick fix.
“This is about setting the terms of trade for generations,” a Canadian delegation source told AFP.
Analysts say the provisional deal reached in Danang will breath new life into global free trade deals at a time when the United States is turning its back on them.
Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Center, said that even without the US, TPP-11 is “the most important trade agreement signed in the last 20 years.”
“Companies had largely given up on the TPP after the withdrawal of the United States,” she said. “Now firms will need to scramble to figure out how the agreement matters to their business.”
At the APEC summit on Saturday Trump faces a long day of meetings with world leaders who are all pushing for more open trade.
As well as Xi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Canada’s Justin Trudeau are among those attending.
The original TPP deal was once described by the US as a “gold standard” for all free trade agreements because it went far beyond just cutting tariffs.
It included removing a slew of non-tariff restrictions and required members to comply with a high level of regulatory standards in areas like labor law, environmental protection, intellectual property and government procurement.
Without the US, TPP-11 only represents 13.5 percent of the global economy but the remaining countries are scrambling to avoid the deal’s collapse, especially given the increasingly protectionist winds sweeping through the US and Europe.
Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?
- Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
- Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983
BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.