Ministers from three member states of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership expressed support for the possibility of the U.S. rejoining the agreement.
Three representatives from governments party to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Tuesday indicated they would welcome the U.S. back to the agreement if it wants to rejoin.
President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact formally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his first few days in office.
But if the U.S. acted to rejoin the deal at some point in the future, Washington would potentially have to reconcile CPTPP with some provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that don’t totally mesh with the CPTPP.
“If the U.S. is going to plug and play, and take on the standards, I think that would be fairly easy,” said Andrea Phua, economic counselor at the Embassy of Singapore in Washington, during a panel discussion. “But I think it’s important to remember the CPTPP has suspended 22 provisions from the original TPP. These were seen as key things that were important to the U.S. and were meant to incentivize the U.S. to return to the TPP in its original form.”
Realistically, reabsorption of the U.S. into TPP would involve some sort of renegotiation, but it’s unclear how long that would take and whether it would pass, Phua said.
Economic officials from the embassies of Australia and Chile in Washington also expressed support for the idea of the U.S. rejoining TPP during the Washington International Trade Association event.
Matias Pinto Pimentel, head of the economic department at the Embassy of Chile, said U.S. CPTPP membership would make it more attractive for other countries to join, adding that South Korea would likely make immediate efforts to join after such an event.
The U.S. has a free trade agreement with South Korea.
“We encourage the accession of the U.S. to the CPTPP, and I think it would be very important as a geopolitical matter to be part of that agreement,” Pimentel said.
Elisabeth Bowes, a minister-counselor for trade at the Embassy of Australia, said, “We were encouraged” that language referencing Indo-Pacific negotiations in the December-enacted Asia Reassurance Initiative Act indicated a sense of the U.S. Congress that there is still a “groundswell of support” for the U.S. rejoining TPP.
Though there would be processual challenges, “we would welcome the U.S. rejoining,” she said. “The rules-based order that governs regional trade in the region would only benefit.”