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PM Turnbull cool on US return to TPP

Malcolm Turnbull doesn't expect the United States to return to a Pacific-wide trade pact "any time soon", after President Donald Trump said America could re-join.

Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan are among the 11 Pacific nations that have signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was thrown into disarray last year when Mr Trump pulled the US out.

"I would do TPP if we made a much better deal than we had. We had a horrible deal," Mr Trump said in an interview with CNBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.

The prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Friday it would be "great" if the US came back, but had a word of caution.

"I don't expect the United States to join the TPP any time soon - we're certainly not counting on it," Mr Turnbull said.

He said the agreement - now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) - would become a bigger deal when other countries joined.

"Indonesia has expressed strong interest; so has Thailand, South Korea, even the UK has expressed interest in talking about it," Mr Turnbull said.

"It's been set up on the basis that it is a trade deal that can admit new members, or even re-admit a member like the United States, that chose to pull out."

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was more optimistic, pledging to follow up with US officials.

"I will discuss President Trump's comments with my US counterpart, the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, when I see him tomorrow," Mr Ciobo told AAP from Davos on Thursday.

"The original TPP was conceived as an open platform, where new members could join if they met the agreement's standards and there was consensus. This structure remains in the CPTPP."

The agreement would eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion.

Mr Ciobo says for Australia, that means new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

Australian farmers will be able to sell more beef, cheese, wheat and rice to Japan and more sugar to Canada and Mexico.

Labor leader Bill Shorten says it is clear Mr Trump had walked away from the original TPP and not come back.

But the new agreement deserved consideration.

"If it stacks up, Labor will give it the tick. If it doesn't stack up, we're not going to give it the tick. We need to watch out for the interests of working and middle class Aussies," he told reporters in Melbourne.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the parliamentary fate of the TPP lay in Labor's hands.

"Labor has to decide whether they want to stand up to rich multinationals doing deals in their interests, whether they want independent scrutiny, whether they want to safeguard the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme)," he said.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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