TPP limps on without United States
The 11 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) say they've discussed "a way forward that would advance economic integration in the Asia Pacific", but did not elaborate on what that path might be.
The TPP was effectively torpedoed in its current form when newly elected US President Donald Trump in January withdrew the United States from the trade pact that originally covered some 40 percent of global gross domestic product between 12 countries.
The remaining members, which include Australia and New Zealand, met for the first time since then on Wednesday, assembled by Chile in its Pacific-facing city of Vina del Mar to try to thrash out a way forward.
"The participating partners reiterated their firm commitment to collaborate in keeping markets open and to the free flow of goods, services and investment," the countries said in a joint statement after the meeting.
Representatives "canvassed views on a way forward that would advance economic integration in the Asia Pacific", the statement said, adding that trade officials would talk in coming weeks and ministers will meet again in May at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering in Vietnam.
"The ministers have decided to continue with the process of consultations to preserve what is important, the substance of the accord," Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz told journalists after the meeting.
Little more in the way of concrete decisions is expected yet.
While proponents of the TPP say it would promote growth and competition, critics say it does not do enough to protect jobs and rights. US presidential candidates across the political spectrum had said they would scrap the TPP if elected.
Even in Chile, where governments of both left and right have championed free trade, there was some uneasiness with the deal, and a small group of anti-TPP protesters clashed with police outside the hotel where delegates were meeting.