Australia will attempt to salvage what is left of the moribund Trans-Pacific Partnership after US President Donald Trump used his first full day of business to formally withdraw from the free trade deal, as he had long promised.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicated the 11 remaining countries could look to include China as a possible replacement for the US, the world's largest economy, as he mounted a strong defence of free trade on Tuesday.
"Certainly there is the potential for China to join the TPP," Mr Turnbull said, noting he had "active discussions" with other leaders, including Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Monday, about resuscitating the doomed trade agreement.
Stressing that Australians were more dependent on trade than Americans, the PM said other nations could "make whatever judgments they wish" but "Australian trade policy is written in Canberra in the interests of Australian jobs".
Mr Turnbull also held out hope the US might reconsider, noting past support from congressional Republicans and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"It is possible that US policy could change over time on this, as it has done on other trade deals," he said.
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo would not declare the TPP dead - as the Labor opposition did on Tuesday - but acknowledged it could not proceed in its current form without the US.
"It's a great shame [but] it's not unexpected," he told Sky News on Tuesday.
Mr Ciobo conceded no modelling had been commissioned on what a deal without the US would look like, or what the benefits - if any - to Australia would be under such an agreement.
"That modelling hasn't basically been done by anybody," he told ABC radio. "It was a hypothetical before today and now that it's happened no doubt it will be looked at."
He said it had been known "since the inauguration" that President Trump intended to withdraw the US from the TPP. But ditching the deal had been core business for Mr Trump since the early days of the US election campaign.
In June Mr Trump told a campaign rally in Ohio the TPP was "a continuing rape of our country". As he remarked while signing the executive order in the Oval Office on Monday: "We've been talking about this for a long time."
Mr Ciobo said it would require "a little bit of elbow grease" to orchestrate a plan B with the remaining TPP members, including Japan, Mexico and Canada, but goodwill remained to "capture the gains" made under the agreement.
"We are not going to walk away from pursuing high quality trade deals that are good for Australian exports," he said.
But it is not clear how other nations will respond to Mr Trump making good on his long-standing campaign commitment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan - the only country to ratify the agreement so far - previously said the TPP "would be meaningless without the United States".
Mr Ciobo would not guarantee the Australian government will attempt to ratify the deal in the Parliament, as Mr Turnbull foreshadowed earlier this week. But he said the government would "keep that option alive".
Bringing the TPP legislation to the Parliament would wedge Labor, which says it supports the agreement in theory but has seemingly delighted in its death and the difficulty that has caused for the government.
Given the opposition of the Greens, One Nation and Nick Xenophon blocs, Labor would decide the legislation's fate in the Senate.
Labor's trade spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Trump's executive order had "put the final nail in the coffin" of the deal.
"It's over. Donald Trump has killed the TPP," he said. "It's time for Malcolm Turnbull to wake up and move on."
But Mr Turnbull slammed Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for what he called "the greatest example of Labor gutlessness for generations", arguing it would hurt trade-exposed jobs. "This is a blast right back into the 1950s," Mr Turnbull said.
The story 'A great shame': Australia tries to salvage Trans-Pacific Partnership deal after US withdraws first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.