On 23 January 2018, senior government officials from 11 countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – reached agreement on the final Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Tokyo, Japan. This followed Canada initially pulling out from signing the then final version of the CPTPP at a meeting in Vietnam in November 2017.
The new deal contains bilateral side letter agreements with other member nations that address Canada’s concerns including:
- the insertion of a chapter dealing with gender rights;
- protections for Canada’s automotive industry; and
- rules in respect of the protection and promotion of Canada’s indigenous culture.
However, the contents of these side letter agreements will not be revealed until the signing of the CPTPP.
President Donald Trump also recently noted, in a speech delivered at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, that the US would consider re-joining the CPTPP if "it is in the interests of all". Australia's position is that it will actively encourage the US along that path. Speaking at the "G'Day USA US-Australian Dialogue on Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific" on 26 January, Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, stated that the agreement "has an open architecture and we welcome additional members in the future if they are willing to abide by its principles and play by its rules...[the CPTPP] has immense strategic value…for the United States."
Nonetheless, even with the absence of the US, this is a landmark moment for enhancing economic growth for Australia, as the CPTPP will vastly improve market access for Australian businesses to a regional free trade area representing 13.5% of the global economy.
Minister for Trade, Tourism & Investment, Steven Ciobo, said that the CPTPP will enhance trade among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, generating more Australian exports and creating new Australian jobs.
“The TPP will eliminate more than 98% of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion. The agreement will deliver 18 new free trade agreements between the TPP parties. For Australia that means new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei,” he added.
The text of the CPTPP is currently undergoing a legal review and translation, and will be made public on a date to be agreed by all member nations.
It is expected the CPTPP will be signed on 8 March 2018 at a ceremony in Chile.