Eleven Nations Expected to Sign Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Without the U.S.

A day after President Donald Trump said he planned to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a group of 11 nations on Thursday took steps toward a sweeping trade deal that appears to buck the U.S.’ increasingly protectionist position.

The 11 countries are expected to later today sign a trade agreement known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal could cut tariffs in those countries, led largely by Japan and Canada, by as much as $10 trillion.

The CPTPP would serve as a replacement for what was previously the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which the U.S. withdrew from three days after Trump took office in 2017.

The threat of a global trade war with America has many industries, including executives in the import-heavy footwear and fashion segments, deeply concerned.

“It is really unfortunate that America spent more than a decade helping lead negotiations to raise working standards and lower duties in the Asia-Pacific, only to get no benefit,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America. “TPP could have saved U.S. footwear companies and consumers more than a half billion dollars a year. That’s savings we could have used to invest in innovation, adding workers and more value to our products. While disheartened, FDRA will continue to support efforts for U.S. bilateral free trade agreements with these and other nations in hopes we can keep hammering away at footwear duties, which reached $2.88 billion on our industry in 2017.”

The original TPP was designed to counter China’s growing might, effectively lowering trade barriers.

Footwear and apparel industry stakeholders had hoped to keep the U.S. in the 12-country trade agreement, which was projected to save the shoe industry $6 billion in taxes over a 10-year period.

When Trump withdraw from TPP — a pact the U.S. and countries such as Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia entered into in 2015 — industry trade organizations such as the FDRA and the American Apparel & Footwear Association were highly critical.

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