Mexico's senate ratifies sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s Senate on Tuesday voted to ratify a Asia-Pacific trade agreement, making it the first of 11 signatory countries to back the arduously negotiated framework that was rejected by the United States.

FILE PHOTO - The Senate of the Republic building is seen in Mexico City January 28, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Senators voted 73-24 to approve the pact, which was signed in March without the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of talks within days of taking office last year.

Mexico, which has been a leading proponent of free trade in Latin America, is currently in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and the United States. Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap NAFTA if it is not reworked to benefit U.S. workers.

Despite striking a string of free-trade deals since the original NAFTA deal in 1993, Mexico still sends 80 percent of its exports to its northern neighbor.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the new Asia-Pacific pact would open up more markets to Mexican goods.

“With this new generation agreement, Mexico diversifies its economic relations with the world and demonstrates its commitment to openness and free trade,” Pena Nieto said on his Twitter account.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will reduce tariffs in countries that together amount to more than 13 percent of the global economy - a total of $10 trillion in gross domestic product.

The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would have represented 40 percent of the world economy if the United States had not dropped out.

The 11 remaining nations finalized a revised trade pact and stripped out some U.S. demands, including rules to ramp up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals.

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam signed the deal and a total of six counties will need to ratify the agreement for it to take effect.

Japan and the United States are currently at loggerheads on how to frame new trade talks between the two longtime allies. Trump has rebuffed Tokyo’s calls to rejoin the Trans-Pacific pact, instead preferring a two-way trade deal.

Current discussions regarding NAFTA have taken a more positive tone this week. Trump said on Tuesday a new deal could be agreed on quickly.

Ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico are meeting in Washington to try to narrow differences on content rules for autos in the hope of making a deal in the coming days.

Reporting by Sharay Angulo and Diego Ore. Writing by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Michael Perry