Tomoo Kikuchi: Trade Liberalization in Asia-Pacific without TPP

According to Tomoo Kikuchi, Senior Research Fellow, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore,  the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a good project regarding labor standards and environment protection, it touched areas where previous regional agreements did not cover. Anyway it was a big discussion, whether TPP was in the interests of big multinationals. TPP had clear timelines, it gave directions for reforms, what countries should achieve in 10 or 20-years period. Now it is clear that TPP will not be ratified by the USA, so the Asia-Pacific countries lost that direction. But it does not mean the end of the free trade agreements. We still have the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Probably the momentum is now much stronger than before to conclude some kind of agreements in the framework of the RCEP.

It is interesting that many big powers became more reluctant to free trade agreements and among them Japan occupies a quite unique position and pushes for free trade arrangements, and even ratified TPP. Japan is now negotiating with the EU to sign a free trade agreement.  

RCEP is not substitute to TPP. But now it may have even a bigger impact, because China and India are members of this project, RCEP has very big potential to grow. One of big challenges of RCEP could be India, which tries to open its service sectors, which the Asian countries resist.

As to Russia-Japan relations, their present development was quite unimaginable even 5 years ago. It reflects a relative decline of the United States and its influence in the region. Japan is looking for alternative partners. Energy is the most promising sector of the bilateral cooperation. But there is huge room for further cooperation in other areas.