In March 2018, the 'Comrepehensive and Progressive Agreement for the TPP' (CPTPP) was signed by the remaining eleven members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11). This bridging agreement has salvaged the TPP following US withdrawal in 2017. Importantly, the CPTPP contains provisions for accession by new member states. Several Asian economies have already begun considering accession options. In a dramatic turnaround, the Trump Administration has recently expressed interest in exploring options to re-join the TPP.
Expanding the membership would significantly augment the strength and systematic impact of the TPP. US membership would be especially impactful, as it would more than double the size of the bloc, greatly expand its reach, and encourage further expansion by drawing in additional members. However, US membership will pose major challenges. Members would need to renegotiate several intellectual property provisions that are suspended in the CPTPP, and likely offer a 'better deal' for the Trump Administration. The TPP-11 have initially expressed reluctance to make such concessions. Prospects for the TPP to become the new template for economic integration in the Indo-Pacific depend on whether its membership can expand. While there is a viable path for new Asian members, it remains to be seen whether common ground between the US and TPP-11 members can be found.
This publication was written by Dr Jeffrey Wilson, Head of Research, and Hugo Seymour, Research Officer, and is part of the Economics of the Indo-Pacific