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(Bloomberg) — The U.S.’s plans for a digital trade agreement covering Indo-Pacific economies may be a step toward Washington rejoining a regional trade deal that President Donald Trump exited in 2017, Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said.
Details of the potential digital agreement are still being drafted, but the pact could potentially include countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, Bloomberg News reported July 13.
“Let’s create that bipartisanship for a digital trade agreement in the Indo-Pacific region and if we can take that first step, hopefully we could look at a second step which would be CPTPP, Tehan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Annmarie Hordern in Washington Thursday, referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Asked if the digital deal would be a precursor to the U.S. joining CPTPP, he said “there are a lot of countries in the region that would hope that that would be the case, but our view is let’s take one step at a time.”
The digital pact would represent an early effort by the Biden administration to present an economic plan for the region after Trump’s decision to withdraw from negotiations for the trade deal in 2017.
The 11 countries in the CPTPP say it remains open to all applicants. China is now pushing ahead with behind-the-scenes talks to join the pact, which at one time was envisioned to cement U.S. economic power and trade ties in the region.
Tehan is seeking to drum up support for Australia in its increasingly fractious relationship with China. During his U.S. visit this week, he met with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who said Washington “stands with Australia” on China trade challenges.
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