Representatives from the landmark Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP, or TPP-11) trade bloc took steps to develop and expand market access at a meeting this Saturday in Tokyo, reaffirming their commitment to free trade and inviting other countries to join.

The CPTPP, which was rejected by President Donald Trump upon taking office in 2017, came into effect last year after it was ratified by Australia. At the moment, 7 of 11 members have already ratified the agreement, and it is expected that the remaining countries will soon follow suit.

The CPTPP seeks to facilitate trade and reduce tariffs among member nations. The bloc currently consists of a total population of almost 500 million inhabitants across 11 countries, and accounts for a GDP of 13.5 billion dollars.

Officials at the member-nations meeting in Tokyo reaffirmed the importance of free trade and economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, said Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who chaired the meeting.

The 11 countries that remain in the bloc after the withdrawal of the United States amended it to allow it to function without American participation. Vietnam, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore have ratified it. The meeting called on Peru, Chile, Brunei and Malaysia to accelerate the process, and invited new membership. Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said, “The entry of new parties... is crucial. Expansion would accelerate and deepen regional economic integration; as well as anchor the CPTPP as one of the pathways towards the free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.” Potential new entrants are South Korea, Indonesia and Britain.

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