TPP: United States, Canada, Pacific Rim Nations Agree Upon Trans-Pacific Partnership Framework

Negotiators from 12 nations reached a “historic” agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership today, seeking to lay out the framework of international trade for the Pacific Rim countries for the foreseeable future.

The countries taking part in the TPP trade deal include the United States, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The TPP agreement seeks to reduce or eliminate tariffs on goods traded internationally between member countries and encompasses roughly 40 percent of global economic output, reports NPR. TPP would also free-up some restrictions on member nations making investment in other countries, and put into place unilateral standards on workplace conditions and patents.

Changes to the auto sector under TPP include a reduction in domestic content requirements for for both U.S.- and Canadian-made vehicles and certain high value parts currently in place under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TPP reduction amounts to 45 percent, from 62.5 percent, for vehicles and to between 35 and 40 percent, from 60 percent, for parts.

The TPP deal was originally expected to be announced on Friday. However, a number of obstacles pushed back the announcement of an agreement until today.

Issues that had been blocking a TPP agreement from being reached included disputes between the United States and Australia with regard to the timeline for exclusivity for pharmaceutical patents, and Canada and New Zealand with regard to dairy tariffs.

President Obama on TPP.
U.S President Barack Obama speaks at the U.N. on September 29.

The TPP must still be ratified in each of the member nations. In the United States, this means the approval of Congress, and in Canada, TPP must meet with the approval of Parliament. TPP has opponents in both nations.

“We can promote growth through trade that meets a higher standard. And that’s what we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” U.S. President Barack Obama was quoted with regard to TPP last week. Obama feels the “agreement will open markets while protecting the rights of workers and protecting the environment that enables development to be sustained.”

Canadian Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau has expressed concern over a lack of transparency with TPP negotiations, reports the Globe and Mail. Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May has expressed similar concerns.

“The problem is that [Prime Minister Stephen Harper],” Trudeau was quoted with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, “has been secretive and non-transparent in this and we need to make sure that we’re actually creating a trade deal that is good for Canadians.”

U.S.-based Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed concerns that the TPP may go “too far” in the extension of fair use laws and copyright rules. Doctors Without Borders is worried that the TPP may make life-saving generic medications more expensive, putting them out of reach for patients in need. The Sierra Club, by contrast, doesn’t think the deal goes far enough to protect fish stocks.

Opponents to TPP in both the United States and Canada describe the deal as defending the rights of corporations, while trampling on the rights of average citizens.

U.S. non-profit, Public Citizen, claims that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is “massive, controversial” and that it is “being pushed by big corporations” at the expense of everyday citizens, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

PM Harper on TPP.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

One aspect of the TPP agreement that has caught the attention of opponents on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border is known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement. Under this provision of the TPP, foreign investors may “bring claims for money damages over violations” before privately conducted arbitration tribunals outside of the jurisdiction of normal due-process in courts, as would be expected of such disputes in American and Canadian legal systems. This aspect of the TPP is seen as an area that could abused by corporate interests.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has described the private tribunal provision as undermining U.S. sovereignty. Other critics have questioned how it could be consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and asked President Obama to demonstrate that it is.

[TPP Representatives Screenshot Courtesy United States Trade Representative / YouTube — President Obama Photo by Anthony Behar-Pool / Getty Images — Prime Minister Stephen Harper Photo by Ben Stansall – WPA Pool / Getty Images]