SYDNEY -- Despite America's withdrawal, members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact are focused on reaching an agreement for the 11 remaining countries, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said.
Australia prefers the agreement stay as close as possible to the original treaty, he said. With an eye on reaching a consensus later this year, Australia will host a meeting of chief negotiators this month to keep the reworked agreement moving forward.
"Australia, New Zealand, Japan. All of us are especially focused on trying to secure the benefits of the TPP," he said. "Japan, of course, recently, and very successfully, hosted senior officials. Australia will be hosting another round later this month. It's part of our ongoing desire to secure an agreement on TPP 11," he said, using the name by which the trade framework is now known.
Ciobo added he hopes to remain on track for an agreement to implement the deal at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November, an event the 11 members have targeted for a consensus.
With the U.S. having left the TPP in January, some members are calling for revisions to the treaty. There may be room to renegotiate patent protections for biologic medicines, which the U.S. had worked vigorously to preserve.
"We personally believe the more it reflects the original agreement, the better," said Ciobo.
Although the "option is open" for the U.S. to rejoin the trade pact, that is up to them, he said. Australia's priority is completing the deal under the current circumstances, he said.
This month, Japan triggered import safeguards on U.S. frozen beef, hiking the tariff rate from 38.5% to 50%. While Ciobo acknowledged that Australian beef would be made more competitive as a result, he said that he never relishes "headwinds that other countries face. We aim to provide a premium product, and that's evident in terms of its position in the marketplace."