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U.S. notifies departure from TPP to 11 other members

The United States on Monday completed its withdrawal from the
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal by officially notifying the 11
other member states.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative sent letters of such
intent to Japan and other TPP members, with President Donald Trump
apparently eager to seek talks with Tokyo on a bilateral free trade
agreement when he meets Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 10 in
Washington.

Monday's action paves the way for the Trump administration to
pursue bilateral trade deals that it believes will benefit American
workers and industry in line with its "America First" mantra, rather
than multilateral ones like the TPP.

"The president will continue to negotiate new, better trade
agreements that will bring jobs back, increase American wages and
reduce our trade deficit," White House press secretary Sean Spicer
said at a press briefing.

Japanese officials have said the Abe government will continue to
try to convince Trump of the benefits of the TPP, while not ruling
out bilateral trade talks with the United States.

Referring to the Trump administration's action on Monday,
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "We will
continue to seek (Trump's) understanding about the strategic and
economic significance of the TPP."

"We think President Trump recognizes the importance of free and
fair trade," the top government spokesman told reporters Tuesday in
Tokyo.

If the United States and Japan were to start bilateral trade
negotiations, Washington would focus on Japan's automobile market,
which Trump has described as being "not fair."

According to a letter the Office of the USTR sent to New
Zealand, the TPP's depositary, acting USTR Maria Pagan said, "The
United States does not intend to become a party to the Trans-Pacific
Partnership Agreement. Accordingly, the United States has no legal
obligations arising from its signature on February 4, 2016."

"The United States remains committed to taking measures designed
to promote more efficient markets and higher levels of economic
growth, both in our country and around the world," Pagan said.

Trump's nominee for the next USTR, Robert Lighthizer, has yet to
be approved by Congress.

The TPP, in its current form, can only take effect if it is
ratified by at least six members that represent 85 percent of the
combined gross domestic product of the 12 members.

Without U.S. ratification, the vast free trade agreement would
effectively be dead because the United States alone accounts for 60
percent of the group's total GDP.

Trump has slammed the TPP, a high-standard trade deal the 12
nations signed in February last year, saying it would cost U.S. jobs
and harm American manufacturing.

The pact, which does not involve China, was championed by
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. (Jan. 30)