From left front row, Brunei's Foreign Minister Haji Erawan bin Pehin Yusof, Chile's Foreing Minister Heraldo Munoz, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo, Canada's Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne, and from left back row, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker, General Secretary Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia Y.Bhg. Datuk J. Jayasiri, Japan's Trans-Pacific Partnership minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Secretary of Economy of Mexico Idelfonso Guajardo, Peru's Trade Minister Eduardo Ferreyros, Vietnamese Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh poses for an official photo prior the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, CP TPP, in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, March 8, 2018. Image: AP Photo/Esteban Felix
Eleven countries including Japan and Canada have signed a landmark Asia-Pacific trade agreement without the United States in what one minister called a powerful signal against protectionism and trade wars.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will reduce tariffs in countries that together amount to more than 13 per cent of the global economy - a total of $10 trillion in gross domestic product.
With the United States, it would have represented 40 per cent.
Heraldo Munoz, Chile's minister of foreign affairs, said the agreement was a strong signal "against protectionist pressures, in favour of a world open to trade, without unilateral sanctions and without the threat of trade wars."
"We will be giving a very powerful signal," he said at a news conference.
Even without the US, the deal will span a market of nearly 500 million people, making it one of the world's largest trade agreements, according to Chilean and Canadian trade statistics.
The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was thrown into limbo early last year when Trump withdrew from the deal three days after his inauguration.
He said the move was aimed at protecting US jobs.
The 11 remaining nations finalised a revised trade pact in January. That agreement will become effective when at least six member nations have completed domestic procedures to ratify it.
The revised agreement eliminates some requirements of the original TPP demanded by US negotiators, including rules to ramp up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals.
The member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
In January, Trump, who also has threatened to pull the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that it was possible Washington might return to the TPP pact if it got a better deal.
However, New Zealand's trade minister said that was unlikely in the near term, while Japan has said altering the agreement now would be very difficult.
On Thursday, Trump vowed to impose a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports, although he said he was willing to strike a deal that could exempt NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada.
Trump announced the planned tariffs last week, rattling financial markets.
© DPA 2018