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Is the U.S. Missing the TPP Train?

With congressional approval uncertain, Pacific nations consider a China option.
Delegates show their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement during the Democratic National Convention on July 25.

Delegates show their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement during the Democratic National Convention on July 25.

Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Steven Ciobo, Australia’s minister for trade, tourism and investment, isn’t sitting around waiting to see whether the U.S. will approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Ciobo says he’s “cautiously optimistic” the TPP, a 12-nation free-trade agreement signed in February, will squeak through Congress despite opposition from presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. TPP faces plenty of opposition among voters and legislators in Australia. So for now he’s focusing on other proposals, such as a regional deal with China, India, and other Asian countries that would exclude the U.S. Ciobo is also pushing ahead with a bilateral deal with Indonesia; and he hopes to start talks soon on an agreement with the European Union. He’s had discussions with British international trade secretary Liam Fox about a post-Brexit deal with the U.K. “Free trade is good for everybody,” says Ciobo. “It’s crucial that we don’t retreat to a protectionist policy.”