- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2017

The New Zealand government has decided to move forward with a modified version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Wednesday, breathing new life into the regional free-trade deal despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw in January, said New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay.

“It’s my expectation that the deal is now more likely to happen than not,” Mr. McClay said, according to The Associated Press. Mr. McClay said he anticipated that leaders of the remaining 11 TPP nations would be reviewing a decision by November.

By approving a negotiation mandate, the New Zealand pushes forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership 11, a deal between the original TPP participating countries minus the U.S. After President Trump withdrew from the TPP on his first day in office, the 11 remaining countries — including Australia, Mexico, Canada, and several Southeast Asian nations — agreed to move forward with a deal that would be modified as little as possible from the original.

The trade deal, which the U.S. signed onto in 2016 under former President Obama, sought to promote free trade among participating nations, lowering tariffs and leveling standards for environmental and labor protection. Proponents argued that it would facilitate data transfers across international borders and improve access to service industries.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump cited concerns that the TPP did not address issues such as currency manipulation and would accelerate the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Other critics said it would raise pharmaceutical prices internationally and hinder competition.

The new U.S. administration says it now favors bilateral deals to multilateral pacts like TPP.

Mr. McClay said the TPP, even without the U.S., is “important to economic growth,” pointing out that tariffs on New Zealand beef exports in Japan would fall from 50 percent to 9 percent.

Other proponents of the TPP argued that it would restrain China’s power in the global economy, in part by raising the bar on trading standards for China’s neighboring competitors and thus pressuring Beijing — not a TPP participant — to improve its standards as well.

But even in New Zealand, the TPP 11 faces roadblocks, with the opposition Labor Party vowing to amend the deal if the party takes power after next month’s elections. In particular, Labor Party skeptics say they want to restrict foreign purchases of New Zealand property.

Some have taken issue with the secrecy of the TPP negotiation process as well, and New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters complained this week that the New Zealand government moved forward without the consent of Parliament or the public.

“This is government by tyranny and not for or on behalf of the people,” Mr. Peters said, the New Zealand Herald reported. “Secrecy, scheming and arrogance are not what New Zealanders want.”

But New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English expressed support for the TPP and optimism for its success.

“Six months ago, no one thought TPP 11 could happen but we’ve got this far,” he said, speaking to reporters in Wellington. “It has exceeded expectations.”

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