By Bill Chappell
“We, the trade ministers … are pleased to announce that we have successfully concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced Monday morning, to a loud round of applause. Froman said the “historic” TPP agreement will “support jobs, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region,” while also raising living standards.
The 30-chapter announcement means that a years-long process to ease trading between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations is closer to being finalized, with negotiators clearing hurdles on how to handle everything from dairy products and drug patents to car factories. The TPP will eliminate “over 18,000 taxes that various countries impose on Made in America exports,” the White House says, adding that import taxes on U.S. auto products will now be cut in member nations.
As news of the deal was announced, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office also unveiled a new website about the agreement. A more detailed summary of policy issues was also released through the office. Officials from the U.S., Japan, and 10 other nations negotiated details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for much of the past week, meeting in Atlanta to push through a framework for a trade agreement that has set off political divisions in the U.S. and added to a debate over how the U.S. should deal with China.
The first question at Monday’s news conference focused on what message the deal sends to China. In his response, Froman didn’t address China specifically, instead saying that the TPP “helps define the rules of the road for the Asia-Pacific region in a way that’s consistent with the interests and values that we share, and we look forward to sharing with other countries the results of the agreement.”
After five years of talks, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says, negotiators have reached a deal. Froman made the announcement in Atlanta; we’ve updated the top of this post to reflect the news. Our original post continues: The sweeping trade deal would cover roughly 40 percent of the world’s economic output, reducing or eliminating tariffs, setting standards on some patents and work conditions, and easing the way for investments between countries.
Here’s the list of countries the TPP would include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States, Singapore and Vietnam. The breakthrough came after several obstacles fell, including a dispute over the length of exclusive patents for new biological drugs, which had split the U.S. and Australia. It’s one of several intellectual property issues that have been a top priority for American companies.
One of the issues that prompted last-minute negotiations centers on the dairy industry, according to The Japan Times, which says New Zealand, a large dairy producer, disagreed with Canada over dairy tariffs. The newspaper also detailed a potential shift in the auto industry, saying:
“A ‘rule of origin’ would stipulate that only 45 percent of a vehicle would have to be sourced from within the TPP, down from the equivalent ratio of 62.5 percent under NAFTA, officials have said.” If it’s enacted, the deal would be the largest free trade agreement the U.S. is a party to but it has an array of opponents, both in Congress, which would have to ratify it, and in other countries.
Summarizing some of the resistance to the deal, NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reported earlier this year that leaked portions of the TPP “have intellectual property advocates, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worried it goes too far in areas like extending copyright laws and fair use rules. Doctors Without Borders has also argued the deal could make for more expensive generic drugs, restricting access to medicine for some consumers. However, some wish the pact went further environmental groups like the Sierra Club, for example, believe the provisions won’t do enough to address overfishing.”