The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)trade agreement also known as CPTPP 11 consists of 11 member states (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).
The TPP agreement was a brain child of former US President, Barack Obama and was signed in February 2016. The main objective of the agreement was to bolster Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ vision, and the agreement was signed in February 2016. Significantly, one of the first decisions taken by US President, Donald Trump, was to withdraw from the agreement. The main reason cited by the US President for this decision was that the TPP agreement was not favourable towards US workers. During the Presidential campaign of 2016, Trump had repeatedly said that apart from leading to job losses of US workers, the agreement would undermine US independence.
In April 2018, Trump had stated that US willing to join the TPP if it was offered a better deal, by then other countries which were part of the TPP had moved on, and the TPP 11 came into force in the end of 2018 (after a majority of signatories, Australia,Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore ratified the CPTPP)
How the agreement has enhanced trade linkages between member states
TPP has helped in bolstering economic cooperation between a number of member states such as Japan, Canada and Vietnam. During Shinzo Abe’s visit to Canada in 2019, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau made a mention of how the deal had enabled Canada to increase it’s exports three fold to Japan. He also stated, that the deal had been beneficial for strengthening economic lies between Canada and Japan.
According to estimates, the agreement had also helped in bolstering trade not just between Vietnam and Japan, but also between Vietnam and Canada.
Efforts to keep supply chains intact
In the midst of the corona virus pandemic, TPP member states like Japan, Singapore and New Zealand have been working assiduously towards keeping supply chains intact. Singapore has been exporting meat and medical products from New Zealand. Singapore has also been seeking to strengthen its economic ties with Japan in the midst of the pandemic.
In April, several TPP members — Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Brunei along with Myanmar, issued a joint statement, so as to open trade lines, including air and sea freight.
Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, along with non-TPP member South Korea have also been exploring the possibility of resuming essential travel.
What is also interesting is the success of some of the TPP member states, in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. This includes Vietnam and New Zealand. As of May 16, 2020 Vietnam recorded 318 coronavirus cases and did not register a single death. The ASEAN nation began to ease the lockdown in the end of April. As of May 16, 2020 the number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand was 1149, and number of deaths was 21 (New Zealand ended a 7 week lockdown on May 14, 2020).
Efforts to rope in new members into the TPP
Post the corona virus pandemic more countries are likely to get on board the TPP, this includes the United (UK). In Asia, Japan is also trying to get Malaysia and Thailand on board the TPP. The main aim of Japan, which will chair the TPP in 2021, in getting these countries on board is reducing its dependence upon China (Tokyo imports over 20% of it’s intermediate goods from China). Thailand could be an important addition to the TPP, because it has been relatively successful in dealing with the pandemic as of now, and apart from its economic relevance, Thailand could also join Singapore, New Zealand and other TPP members in their endeavor to resume essential travel
TPP is thus important for a number of reasons. First, it is providing an alternative narrative to China’s narrative of economic growth — especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific (Japan’s desire to get new countries on board is a strong reiteration of the same). Second, the TPP is a clear reiteration, that globalization in a post corona world is not likely to be driven by Washington and Beijing (many members of the TPP such as Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam have an important role to play).
Third, it is an interesting instance of an arrangement, where not all member states have similar political systems, but are bound by common economic interests.
In the post corona world, the relevance of the TPP is likely to rise, it remains to be seen how Beijing and Washington react to this.