While President Trump has recently withdrawn from the TPP Agreement, not yet ratified, and announced his interest in negotiating on a bilateral basis any commercial agreement, the Pacific Alliance has made an interesting political move. The PA has called for a meeting to take place 14-15 March in Chile.
The purpose of the meeting is gathering not only foreign affairs ministers of the TPP negotiating parties but also China, South Korea and Colombia. Although no formal commitments are expected from the ministerial summit, it will provide a forum for Asian and PA countries to discuss ways to move forward in the economic front while counter-reacting to the protectionist narrative of recent months in the US.
The idea that the meeting will help to resuscitate the hopes for a transpacific agreement seems attractive but rather unlikely. However, Chinese presence in the meeting could send a visible message that China could step in to take the lead relinquished by the US. China, Japan, South Korea and another eight countries are already confirmed to attend the meeting.
It is too soon to say what will come out of the summit named: “High-Level Dialogue on Integration Initiatives in the Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities.” However, the fact that it is sponsored and convened by the PA sends a commitment message from the group to strengthen its economic ties with Asia Pacific. The extent to which this political dialogue will materialise in more concrete economic initiatives or other issue areas with more concrete actions is something worth following up. Chilean initiative behind the meeting and hosting of the event also fulfills a self-interest in signalling its individual commitment to international trade while leveraging the potential interest of other participating members through the umbrella of the PA.