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Australia retains hope for trade deal as Trump withdraws US

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The historic 12-nation Pacific trade deal could still be salvaged without the US, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo believes.

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With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership through an executive order just three days after his predecessor Barack Obama left the White House.

“There’s quite a lot of countries that have an interest in looking to see if we could make a TPP 12 minus one work,” Ciobo told ABC radio today.

The minister conceded the original deal can’t go forward unless the US changes its mind.

But he has already had discussions with Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia about working towards an alternative.

“It’s a moving space, but it’s an important space, one that we must continue to pursue to give Aussie exporters the best chance to get preferential, global access for Australian exports,” he said.

Ciobo had meetings with counterparts during the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

“This is very much a live option and we’re pursuing it and it will be the focus of conversations for some time to come,” he said.

The Australian government would keep alive the option of ratifying the TPP even without the US.

“We’re not going to be like Bill Shorten and the Labor Party and walk away from this deal because it requires now a little bit of elbow grease,” Ciobo said.

Opposition trade spokesman Jason Clare said Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility was in little better shape than the “dead” TPP, with the prime minister declaring the deal was pivotal to his economic plan.

“It’s over. Donald Trump has killed the TPP,” Clare said in a statement.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to wake up and move on, and develop a real economic plan for Australia.”

The prime minister discussed the trade deal with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Monday night.

Turnbull noted Japan’s ratification of the TPP – the only country so far to do so – and underlined his desire to consider options to progress the agreement, his office said.

Both leaders agreed the deal was in the interests of both the Australian and Japanese people.

rump signed an executive order on Monday to withdraw the US from the TPP.

“Everyone knows what that means, right?” Trump said at the signing ceremony in the White House.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time.

“It’s a great thing for the American worker.”

Withdrawing from the TPP is one of Trump’s first major moves since being sworn in as president on Friday.

Trump said on Monday he is pursuing what he calls “fair trade”, not free trade, and he has China and Japan in his sights.

He called out Japan for making “it impossible to sell” US cars in Japan.

“If you want to sell something into China and other countries it’s very, very hard,” Trump told a meeting of chief executives of some of America’s biggest companies earlier on Monday.

“In some cases it’s impossible.

“They won’t even take your product.

“But when they do take your product they charge you a lot of tax.

“I don’t call that free trade.

“What we want is fair trade.”

In the meeting with company heads, including Australian Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris who was appointed as one of Trump’s key advisers, the president laid out his plans to cut regulations for businesses in the US and slash the company tax rate from 35 per cent “down to anywhere from 15 to 20 per cent”.

“What we want to do is bring manufacturing back to our country,” he told Liveris and the chief executives of other companies including Ford, US Steel and Lockheed Martin, said.

He said companies that moved factories out of the US and then tried to sell its products back to America would be punished with a “very major border tax”.

– AAP

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