On December 14, 2009, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk notified Congress of intentions to enter into negotiations of a regional, Asia-Pacific trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with the objective of shaping a high-standard, broad-based regional pact.
In letters to the Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tempore, Ambassador Kirk said that such an agreement would help to expand American exports, saving and creating good jobs here at home.
The letter noted that
• Asia-Pacific markets are already key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and service suppliers.
• Although U.S. exports to Asia-Pacific markets have grown, there has been a decline in U.S. market share in the Asia-Pacific region, in part because of a proliferation of trade agreements to which the U.S. is not a party.
• The TPP negotiating partners currently include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
• U.S. participation in the TPP Agreement is predicated on the shared objective of expanding this initial group to additional countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and several have already expressed interest in potentially participating in the agreement.
The first round of negotiations took place from March 15-19 in Melbourne, Australia. The second round of negotiations took place from June 14-18 in San Francisco, California.
TransPacific Partnership and Labor Provisions
A number of interested stakeholders in the U.S., including the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), the largest federation of unions in the United States, believe that the TransPacific Partnership Trade Promotion Agreement should include a chapter on Labor that is similar to the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Labor Chapter (Chapter 17).
Please click this link for background information about the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Labor Chapter (Chapter 17).
Some Comments about the TPP from Interested Parties in the U.S. (Jan 25, 2010)
Click this link and click the box Public Submissions under the Document Type to see all 242 public comments.
Additional Background Reading about the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Tales of the South Pacific: The Trans-Pacific Partnership The TPP has two distinguishing features that set it apart: it is a relatively sophisticated agreement, and it is explicitly welcoming to new members. Each of these qualities is fairly rare.
A New Zealand Viewpoint: Untangling the Noodles The global economic recovery is accelerating the development of a new framework for trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region. The WTO Doha round is deadlocked and progress on multilateral trade liberalization has stalled. Maybe trade negotiations are focused on “yesterday’s issues.” Economies and Free Trade Agreements are starting to overlap, presenting opportunities for consolidation. While market access is important, a strong market integration agenda includes services, investment, and regulatory co-operation (including competition policy, standards harmonization, labor and environment, and other “behind the border” issues). The TPP is about trying to “untangle those noodles” of complicated overlapping trade agreements.
US Tries To Build Consensus For Trans-Pacific Trade Talks The trade zone would cobble together four countries that already have free-trade deals with the U.S. (Singapore, Chile, Australia and Peru) along with New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam. The administration sees the relatively modest regional deal as a way to break the domestic logjam on trade and position the U.S. to compete in the fast-growing region. It wants the trade partnership to encompass new initiatives to promote regional supply chains and regulatory cooperation, while also making labor and environmental rights a priority.
Where is the U.S. in Asia’s future? East Asia Forum, Feb 9, 2010
The TPP, a trade and economic agreement among four nations (New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei) was signed in 2005. As a vehicle for the United States to advance its interests in Asia, it has a number of attractions.
First, the United States already had negotiated bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with two leading members, Chile and Singapore;
Second, the TPP itself is a comprehensive FTA, modeled on the so-called U.S. FTA ‘Gold Standard’ that includes nearly complete free trade in goods within a short time-span, plus substantial advances in services, investment, health and safety regulations, competition and government procurement policy, and dispute settlement;
Third, it contains explicit provisions for expansion to include new members from the Asian region and could serve as the foundation for trans-Pacific regionalism built upon the existing Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC) forum.
Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Worth the Fuss? The Cato Institute, Mar 15, 2010.
Announcing negotiations on the TPP pact is the first truly positive move on trade from an administration whose first year has been marked by almost total indifference to trade liberalization, and a consistent willingness to appease special interests calling for protection from foreign competition. Any positive efforts towards economic openness should therefore be encouraged.
If the administration is truly interested in expanding trade and opportunities for American consumers and businesses, it should establish its commitment by first passing the bilateral agreements already completed. The choice to pursue a politically safe but economically marginal deal instead of promoting agreements already signed and ready for passage does not engender confidence in the administration’s commitment to economic liberty and international engagement.