Japan, Australia and New Zealand are heading the push to bring in the so-called TPP 11, saying it will ensure future free trade, strengthen labour rights and environmental protections.
Trade officials across the group have agreed to work towards a meeting in Japan to try and expand the TPP to other economies.
“These efforts would address our concern about protectionism, contribute to maintaining open markets, strengthening the rules-based international trading system, increasing world trade, and raising living standards,” the group said in a joint statement.
After meeting in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Sunday, New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay told reporters there was a commitment “to finding a way forward to deliver” the pact.
The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which covers 40 percent of the global economy, was a signature policy of the Obama administration and was in part designed to serve as a counterweight to Beijing’s burgeoning economic might.
It was different from other free trade agreements because it also controversially covered labour laws, environmental protections and intellectual property rights.
The TPP could be a big shift for smaller economies such as Vietnam by offering unprecedented access to the world’s biggest economies.
Its future was put in doubt in January when the new US president Donald Trump abandoned it to meet a campaign pledge to protect American jobs which he claims have been sucked up overseas.
Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the plan was to get the TPP up despite the US position.
“With the US withdrawing, the metrics around the TPP have changed. However, there’s a strong desire for this to still happen,” Mr Ciobo told the Australian Financial Review.
“So we’ve got to do the methodical approach to realise the benefits.”
Donald Trump’s newly-appointed trade chief Robert Lighthizer said there was no prospect of the US returning to the TPP.
“The TPP 11 can make their own decisions, the United States makes its decisions, that’s what sovereign nations do,” Mr Lighthizer told reporters.