Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
2006 agreement parties: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore
Others: Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Vietnam
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between several Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of matters of economic policy. Among other things, the TPP will seek to lower trade barriers such as tariffs, establish a common framework for intellectual property, enforce standards for labour law and environmental law, and establish an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. The stated goal of the agreement is to "enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, to promote innovation, economic growth and development, and to support the creation and retention of jobs." TPP is considered by the United States government as the companion agreement to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a broadly similar agreement between the United States and the European Union.
Historically, the TPP is an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4), which was signed by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore in 2006. Beginning in 2008, additional countries joined the discussion for a broader agreement: Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam, bringing the total number of participating countries in the negotiations to twelve.
Participating nations set the goal of completing negotiations in 2012, but contentious issues such as agriculture, intellectual property, and services and investments caused negotiations to continue for significantly longer. They finally reached agreement on 5 October 2015. Implementation of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the trade agenda of the Obama administration in the United States of America. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper expects "the full text of the agreement to be released in the next few days, with signatures on the finalized text and deal early in the new year, and ratification over the next two years." Although the text of the treaty has not been made public, Wikileaks has published several leaked documents since 2013.
A number of global health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organised labour, advocacy groups, and elected officials have criticised and protested against the treaty, in large part because of the secrecy of negotiations, the agreement's expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked to the public.
Twelve countries are participating in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific
Partnership Agreement. They are the four parties to the 2005 Trans-Pacific
Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement in 2006, and eight others.
South Korea is not part of the 2006 agreement, but it has shown interest in
entering the TPP, and was invited to the TPP negotiating rounds by the US after
the successful conclusion of its Free trade agreement between the United States
of America and the Republic of Korea in December 2010. South Korea already has
bilateral trade agreements with some TPP members, but areas such as vehicle
manufacturing and agriculture still need to be agreed upon, making further
multilateral TPP negotiations somewhat complicated. South Korea may join the TPP
as part of a second wave of expansion for the trade agreement.
Other countries and regions interested in TPP membership include Taiwan, the Philippines, Laos, Colombia, Thailand, and Indonesia. According to law professor Edmund Sim, many of these potential countries would have to change their protectionist trade policies in order to join the TPP. Other potential future members include Cambodia, Bangladesh and India.
The most notable country in the Pacific Rim not involved in the negotiations is China. According to the Brookings Institution, the most fundamental challenge for the TPP project regarding China is that "it may not constitute a powerful enough enticement to propel China to sign on to these new standards on trade and investment. China so far has reacted by accelerating its own trade initiatives in Asia." However, China may still be interested in joining the TPP eventually.
Reported by CNN that one goal of TPP is to neutralize China's power in global trading and make American companies more competitive. However, in May 2013, China showed an interest in joining TPP and may see it as an opportunity for its slowing economy.
According to the New York Times, "the clearest winners of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would be American agriculture, along with technology and pharmaceutical companies, insurers and many large manufacturers" who could expand exports to the other nations that have signed the treaty.
The majority of United States free trade agreements are implemented as congressional-executive agreements. Unlike treaties, such agreements require a majority of the House and Senate to pass. Under trade promotion authority (TPA) , established by the Trade Act of 1974, Congress authorizes the President to negotiate "free trade agreements ... if they are approved by both houses in a bill enacted into public law and other statutory conditions are met." In early 2012, the Obama administration indicated that a requirement for the conclusion of TPP negotiations is the renewal of TPA. This would require the United States Congress to introduce and vote on an administration-authored bill for implementing the TPP with minimal debate and no amendments, with the entire process taking no more than 90 days.
In December 2013, 151 House Democrats signed a letter written by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), which opposed the fast track trade promotion authority for the TPP. Several House Republicans opposed the measure on the grounds that it empowered the executive branch. In January 2014, House Democrats refused to put forward a co-sponsor for the legislation, hampering the bill's prospects for passage.
On 16 April 2015, several US Senators introduced "The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015", which is commonly known as TPA Fast-track legislation. The bill passed the Senate on 21 May 2015, by a vote of 62 to 38, with 31 Democrats, five Republicans and both Independents opposing. The bill went to the US House of Representatives, which narrowly passed the bill 218-208, and also removed the Trade Adjustment Assistance portions of the Senate bill. The TPA was passed by the Senate on 24 June 2015, without the TAA provisions, requiring only the signature of the President before becoming law. President Obama expressed a desire to sign the TPA and TAA together, and did sign both into law on 29 June, as the TAA was able to make its way through congress in a separate bill. By June 2015, the Trade-Promotion Authority bill (TPA) passed the Senate. This final approval to legislation granted President Obama "enhanced power to negotiate major trade agreements with Asia and Europe." Through the TPA, Obama could "submit trade deals to Congress for an expedited vote without amendments." The successful conclusion of these bilateral talks was necessary before the other ten TPP members could complete the trade deal.
Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in New Zealand say US corporations are hoping to weaken the ability of its domestic agency Pharmac to get inexpensive, generic medicines by forcing it to otherwise pay considerably higher prices for brand name drugs. Physicians and organizations including Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) have also expressed concern.
The New Zealand Government denies the claims, Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser saying opponents of the deal are "fools" who are "trying to wreck this agreement".
In Australia, critics of the investment protection regime argue that traditional investment treaty standards are incompatible with some public health regulations, meaning that the TPP will be used to force states to adopt lower standards, e.g., with respect to patented pharmaceuticals.The Australian Public Health Association (PHAA) published a media release on 17 February 2014 that discussed the potential impact of the TPP on the health of Australia's population. A policy brief formulated through a collaboration between academics and non-government organizations (NGOs) was the basis of the media release, with the partnership continuing its Health Impact Assessment of the trade agreement at the time of the PHAA's statement. Michael Moore, the PHAA's CEO said, "The brief highlights the ways in which some of the expected economic gains from the TPPA may be undermined by poor health outcomes, and the economic costs associated with these poor health outcomes."
Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich has opposed the TPP because he says it would delay cheaper generic versions of drugs, and because of its provisions for international tribunals that can require corporations be paid "compensation for any lost profits found to result from a nation's regulations."
Organised labour in the U.S. argued that the trade deal would largely benefit corporations at the expense of workers in the manufacturing and service industries. The Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research argued that the TPP could result in further job losses and declining wages.
In 2014, Noam Chomsky warned that the TPP is "designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximise profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity." Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who opposes fast track, stated that trade agreements like the TPP "have ended up devastating working families and enriching large corporations." Another Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman reported, "... I'll be undismayed and even a bit relieved if the T.P.P. just fades away", and said that "... there isn't a compelling case for this deal, from either a global or a national point of view." Krugman also noted the absence of "anything like a political consensus in favor, abroad or at home." Economist Robert Reich contends that the TPP is a "Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits."
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