A replacement for the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership could be put into action before the year is out after Australia became the sixth nation to officially ratify a new deal.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a trade deal among 11 nations and it required the agreement of six countries in order to trigger a 60-day countdown to activation, a milestone which has now been reached.
Once envisaged as a pact that could rewrite the rulebook of global trade for this century, the original TPP was lauded by former US president Barack Obama and seemed set to come into effect imminently after almost a decade of negotiations.
However, current president Donald Trump pulled the US from the deal in his first week in office as part of his 'America first' policies, leaving trade plans in disarray.
Nevertheless, diplomats led by Japan struggled to claw back a version of the deal that would bind Pacific countries closer together in trade - and the result is the new CPTPP.
With Australia now having joined Canada, Mexico, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand in ratifying the agreement, Japan's economy minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters it should kick in on December 30th 2018.
The CPTPP will reduce tariffs in economies that account for more than 13 per cent of global gross domestic product, making it one of the most ambitious free trade pacts ever, even without America's inclusion.
It is hoped the deal will promote free trade and global partnerships at a time of increasing tariff battles between the US and China, as well as mitigating the global economic uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Supporters believe it will reduce barriers to the free flow of goods, services and investment, but it also goes deeper by also regulating labour, environmental rules and intellectual property for a more stable and just global economy.
This should create a predictable trading environment for members, which will in turn provide benefits to manufacturers and exporters looking to send their goods to and from member nations.
Annexes will also be included that address specific challenges, such as the export of pharmaceuticals, communications technology and other products, something that has proven to be a barrier to streamlined trade in the past.
The deal could indeed come into effect by the end of 2018, ensuring an initial tariff cut and then a second round on January 1st 2019 (or April 1st 2019 in Japan).
Countries yet to ratify the deal are Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam, but the door has been left open for them to do so - and the existing signatories also hope the US will eventually reconsider, perhaps under a different administration in the years to come.
"I expect other signatories will come on board after the CPTPP enters into force, as many are working hard to progress their applicable domestic procedures. As a result, we could well see other signatories in a position to ratify over the coming weeks and months," said New Zealand trade minister David Parker.