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Pacific Rim trade bloc meets in Tokyo

TOKYO: Representatives from a Pacific Rim trade bloc geared up to roll out and expand the market-opening initiative as they met Saturday in Tokyo, reaffirming their commitment to open and free trade and inviting new membership.

The Pacific Rim free trade agreement, rejected by President Donald Trump after he took office in 2017, took effect at the end of last year after Australia became the sixth nation to ratify it.

So far, seven of the 11 member countries have done so, and the others are expected to follow through soon.

Known as the Compre­hensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the agreement aims to streamline trade and slash tariffs to facilitate more business among member nations with a combined population of nearly 500 million and GDP of $13.5 trillion.

The trade officials at the meeting in Japan’s capital reaffirmed the importance to promote free trade and economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region and be­­yond, said Japanese Eco­nomy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who chaired the gathering.

The 11 nations remaining after the US withdrawal amended the pact to enable it to take effect even without Washington’s participation. Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and Singapore also have ratified it.

Peru, Chile, Brunei and Malaysia have not yet done so and were encouraged at the meeting to push forward the process.

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