The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries with the goal of lowering or eliminating trade barriers, including tariffs, quotas, and other restrictions, between the nations involved. Major nations such as Canada, Japan, the United States, and Mexico all have stakes in the partnership. The proposal has undergone negotiations for several years, with plans to finalize the agreement going back to 2012. The passage of the TPP has been of high priority for the Obama Administration. However, there have been several controversies with the agreement that have prevented it from coming to fruition. In its latest round of negotiations, which ended on July 31, the partnership was delayed once again, citing disagreements over certain trade industries, potential human rights violations, and corporate interests. This time, it looks to be a bitter blow for the TPP.
Skepticism over several features of the TPP has followed the agreement since its inception. Major points of contention include the secrecy of debate over the agreement and its scope--while free trade appears to be the main focus of the TPP, other pieces of legislation seem to be packaged along with the deal. Wikileaks, the organization responsible for leaks of several international government documents, has previously released portions of the TPP that deal with the environment, the global health system, and intellectual property rights. Other documents have revealed the amount of power in legislative efforts given to corporations, and the large amounts of money these companies have been lobbying for the deal to pass. These leaks have been met with outcries from activists who believe the TPP may tread on the rights of citizens of the countries involved. Another issue has developed in granting Obama the right to "fast-track" the TPP deal in June. The fast track allows Obama to present Congress with the final deal and push it through without worrying about Congress blocking or amending the text of the deal (although they can still block it), effectively granting it faster passage. For those opposed to the TPP, this only seems to guarantee its passage.
On top of public outcries, disagreements between nations on certain trade industries have also prevented the TPP from being approved. In a previous blog post, I talked about issues discussed in TPP negotiations from a little over a year ago. While some of those problems have been resolved, more have formed in their wake. Controversial talking points in this past round of negotiations include dairy trade between New Zealand and North America, farming and automotive trade between Japan and the United States, sugar trade between Australia and the United States, auto trade between Japan and Mexico, and overall displeasure with the United States' pharmaceutical patents. Perhaps most controversial is the current relationship between the United States and Malaysia. The United States believes that Malaysia has cut down on its human trafficking problems and has upgraded its assessment of the nation, potentially opening the two countries up for increased trade. This has been met with outrage from several other international politicians who claim that human trafficking is still rampant in Malaysia and that this decision hurts the United States' penchant for human rights observance. The opposition believes that the United States made this decision with the goal of faster passage of the TPP.
With old and new controversies crowding the TPP at every turn, the deal remains unlikely to be passed anytime soon. Negotiations are once again scheduled for November, though it is unknown how big of a difference it will make. Some say that because of the sheer scope of the TPP, there may never be a perfect resolution passed that pleases everybody. What do you think is the future of this deal?