LatAm giants looks to resurrect trade deal from TPP's ashes
After the US withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and opened up the Nafta agreement, four Pacific Alliance countries are to hold talks to admit four advanced economies in a move that will be seen as a sign that free trade is still on the agenda
Four Latin American countries will launch trade talks later this month in a move that could shake up the Asia-Pacific region and send a strong signal against the increasingly protectionist attitude from the United States.
The Pacific Alliance, which includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, will sit down on October 23 in Cali, Colombia with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore for negotiations to let them in as associate members.
“Given the international context, the Pacific Alliance is one of the most import-ant integration initiatives in the Asia-Pacific,” Peruvian trade minister Eduardo Ferreyros told GlobalMarkets.
He said members had decided two things even before talks begun: first, the process had to be ambitious, focusing on goods, services and investment; and second, it needed to be quick while still remaining rigorous.
Ferreyros said the parties did not want to “replicate the experience of other processes that have not seen the light of day”. The participating countries know something about this. With the exception of Colombia, all of them were part of the long negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation effort that began in 2008 and was signed in February 2016. It has been in limbo since January, when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States.
The remaining countries, known as the TPP11, have met three times since July and leaders are scheduled to meet in Vietnam next month on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.
Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are also part of the 16-country Chinese-led Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership (RCEP) that has sputtered after 19 rounds of talks.
Policymakers in Asia and Latin America are watching the Pacific Alliance to see what it can get done while other projects are stalled and one, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) that joins Canada, Mexico and the United States, may come undone after nearly 25 years.
“Trade and protectionism have grown more complex,” said Alan Bollard, Apec executive director. “We have Nafta renegotiation, TPP11 renegotiation, and RCEP seems to be the backburner, but the Pacific Alliance is pushing ahead with potentially four new members. I think it has quite a head of steam and there is a lot of interest, particularly if we were to see other negotiations slowing down.”
Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, urged regulators to include Brazil and Argentina.