No new TPP members within 2 years

National 2 minutes, 3 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE US ambassador to Brunei has said it is unlikely for new members to join the Trans Pacific Partnership within the next two years while the current 12 members are undergoing domestic ratification processes.

Craig Allen said while a larger agreement would benefit more people, the TPP countries – which includes Brunei – must focus on ratifying the trade deal in their own legislatures first.

“We’re not at ratification yet... We have a fantastic agreement in front of us but we’re not done yet. So let’s not consider extensions to the agreement until we get the task at hand complete,” he told The Brunei Times in a recent interview.

ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are already part of the TPP – which covers 40 per cent of global GDP – but recently Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have also expressed interest in joining.

Allen added that deepening economic engagement with Southeast Asia is a key issue that will be discussed at the upcoming US-ASEAN leaders’ summit in California next week.

“I don’t think anyone was excluded from this (trade agreement), but different countries operate at different paces, and many have complex political situations that they need to deal with,” he said.

“Other ASEAN countries that are interested in joining (the TPP), we welcome their interest. Following ratification, if and when it occurs, I think it would be useful to have other serious discussions,” he said.

In a previous report, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the four ASEAN countries in the TPP could serve as a bridge to the less developed economies in Southeast Asia, as a source of investment and business opportunities.

“Those four countries can become not just engines of economic growth for ASEAN, but young people and entrepreneurs can become the investors in entrepreneurship in other ASEAN countries,” he said last November. “Ultimately, that’s how TPP can help broaden access to opportunity, entrepreneurship. Not just in TPP countries but in the broader ASEAN community.”

Collectively, the TPP market has over 800 million people and accounts for 30 per cent of global trade.

The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet, and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.

TPP groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The Brunei Times