Vietnam to ratify Pacific trade pact next month

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 18 2018 10:14 PM

HANOI - Vietnam said Thursday it will ratify a sprawling Pacific trade pact that US President Donald Trump pulled out of last year, calling the deal a "disgrace" for American jobs.

The 11 remaining countries agreed to push ahead with a watered-down version without the world's largest economy, rebranding the pact as the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership).

Vietnam, an export-based manufacturing economy that stood to gain enormously from unfettered access to the US market, said lawmakers would ratify the deal next month.

He said the "important deal" would help Vietnam respond to global economic trends that have been "complicated with the rise of protectionism in major economies," in a veiled reference to the US.

Vietnam and Japan -- which has lobbied hard to keep the deal alive -- last month urged the United States to re-join the sprawling trade pact, whose original signatories would have covered 40 percent of the global economy.

The remaining economies of the CPTPP make up only 13.5 percent.

The terms of the CPTPP leave the door open for Washington to re-join and could also allow non-Pacific countries to sign on.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this month he would welcome Britain "with open arms" to join the pact as the European nation steps toward finalizing Brexit.

Four of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership signatories -- Australia, Mexico, Japan and Singapore -- have already ratified the deal, which can only come into effect once all members have done so.

Pulling out of the TPP, a deal spearheaded by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, was one of the American leader's first post-election announcements as he made good on campaign pledges to protect US jobs.

Trump has singled out Vietnam for its gaping trade gap with the United States and urged Hanoi to buy more American goods, including military equipment.

But trade troubles have not appeared to dent relations between the close military and political allies as they seek to counterbalance China's rising influence in Asia.

Vietnam is a hub for cheap manufactured goods from Adidas shoes, Intel processors and Samsung phones, and one of the region's fastest growing economies that has largely been buoyed by globalization and open trade.

A long-delayed free trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union inched closer to finalization this week after the European Commission submitted the deal for final approval from the EU's 28 members and the European Parliament.

Some EU parliamentarians have said Vietnam should improve its dismal human rights record before agreeing to the trade pact, which would offer Hanoi unprecedented access to European markets.