Reports of the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement may be premature, as the deal's members consider proceeding without the U.S.
That's the wind in the air at the Institute of International Finance conference in Japan, despite U.S. President Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the TPP, a broad 12-nation trade deal, which he claimed was a "disaster" that would hurt U.S. manufacturing.
Although Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had initially said that the TPP would be "meaningless" without the U.S., more recently, Japanese officials have begun to second Australia's calls to proceed without the U.S.
Deborah Elms, executive director at the Asian Trade Centre, said the other 11 nations have decided they want to preserve the benefits of the deal.
"I think that's hubris on the part of the U.S. to assume that once we pull out, then everybody else is going to go home," she told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on the sidelines of the conference on Monday. "This is a 12-party agreement. The other 11 are equally important on their own right."
She noted that the TPP was skewed toward U.S. interests, which may pose challenges to shaping an ex-U.S. pact, but she still expected a deal could be reached by year-end.
Elms added that Japan may also be hoping the U.S. might rejoin the deal later.
Japan was set to be a major beneficiary of TPP, particularly the country's auto sector would have obtained cheaper access to U.S. markets.
The U.S. leader has also complained about his country's trade deficit with Japan, pointing particularly to an imbalance in auto sales: Japan exports more than a million cars to the U.S. annually, while the U.S. sells a little more than 10,000 vehicles a year in Japan.
Analysts generally attribute the imbalance not to trade barriers, but to U.S. cars being ill-suited to the Japanese market, which tends to prefer small, fuel-efficient cars, and to the lack of established dealer networks.
Others also expected an ex-U.S. TPP could proceed.