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Pacific Rim countries sign sweeping free trade agreement

The deal signed in Santiago, Chile, will streamline trade and slash tariffs.

Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries have signed a sweeping free trade agreement to streamline trade and slash tariffs.

The move came hours before US president Donald Trump announced plans to impose new tariffs on aluminium and steel imports to protect producers.

Mr Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year, prompting fears it would not prosper without its most influential country.

But the remaining 11 members pressed ahead, saying they were showing resolve against protectionism through global trade.

Peru’s Trade Minister Eduardo Ferreyros, left, Secretary of Economy of Mexico Idelfonso Guajardo, centre, and Japan’s Trans-Pacific Partnership minister Toshimitsu Motegi at the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (AP)

The ministers dropped key provisions that the Americans had required on protection of intellectual property, among others.

The renegotiated pact signed in the Chilean capital of Santiago was also renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.

Japanese economy minister Toshimitsu Motegi said after the signing of the deal: “Despite the diverse and difficult challenges, the CPTPP is a historic achievement that creates free and fair 21st century rules in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The pact that covers 500 million people includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which together account for 13% of the global economy.

The US, originally the biggest TPP economy, was one of the trade deal’s strongest supporters before Mr Trump took office.

The president has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement that includes the US, Mexico and Canada.

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