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Trade deal on ice

Friday, February 23, 2018

WELLINGTON/Sydney - The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of Asia-Pacific's fastest-growing economies was released on Wednesday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without its star member the United States.

More than 20 provisions have been suspended or changed in the final text ahead of the deal's official signing in March, including rules around intellectual property originally included at the behest of Washington.

The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritise protecting US jobs.

The 11 remaining nations, led by Japan, finalised a revised trade pact in January, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8.

The deal will reduce tariffs in economies that together amount to more than 13 per cent of global GDP — a total of $US10 trillion ($F20t).

With the United States, it would have represented 40 per cent.

"The big changes with TPP 11 are the suspension of a whole lot of the provisions of the agreement.

"They have suspended many of the controversial ones, particularly around pharmaceuticals," said Kimberlee Weatherall, professor of law at the University of Sydney.

Many of these changes had been inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of US negotiators, such as rules ramping up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which some governments and activists worried would raise the costs of medicine.

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