Trade experts and diplomats, though, are confident the deal is worth pursuing without the Americans.
Deborah Elms, founder and executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, said though access to the U.S. market won’t be tariff-free, the outright level is “generally very low.” The real benefit of the TPP lies in market access to countries within the framework of the deal “where tariffs fall to zero,” Elms explained. “It’s a win-win for the 11. Services and investment access is amazing.”
But selling that message to domestic audiences will be challenging when even free trade champions such as New Zealand appear divided on the TPP’s merits.
“It’s really razor-thin benefits,” New Zealand’s Green Party trade spokesperson Barry Coates told TVNZ1.
TPP’s backers may have to wield the red pen. Peru is understood to be pushing for provisions related to the pharmaceutical sector, while “there’s a whole lot of rules” Vietnam wants changed on the garment sector, the Asian Trade Centre’s Elms said.
Does this imply minor tweaks or root and branch changes?
The core of TPP, according to Elms, may not require going back to the drawing board if U.S.-specific provisions are left “dormant” – an olive branch effectively allowing Washington access at a later stage. “That’s the big debate. Do we leave it as it is or remove them outright?”
Japan wants the U.S. provisions to stay, Elms said. “Crucially, Japan doesn’t have to go back to the Diet and re-ratify it” if U.S. chooses to re-enter the TPP down the road.
TPP’s promoters are fighting against a…