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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress

Ian F. Fergusson, Coordinator
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Brock R. Williams
Analyst in International Trade and Finance

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA, presumably because they hope it will liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial in November 2011 in Honolulu, HI. If concluded as envisioned, the TPP potentially could eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment among the parties and could serve as a template for a future trade pact among APEC members and potentially other countries. Congress has a direct interest in the negotiations, both through influencing U.S. negotiating positions with the executive branch, and by passing legislation to implement any resulting agreement.

The 16th round of negotiations will take place in Singapore, between March 4 and 13, 2013. Three negotiating rounds are scheduled this year prior to the October 2013 APEC summit in Indonesia, the current target for reaching an agreement. For this deadline to be achieved, outstanding negotiating positions may need to be tabled soon in order for political decisions to be made. The negotiating dynamic itself is complex: decisions on key market access issues such as dairy, sugar, and textiles and apparel may be dependent on the outcome of controversial rules negotiations such as intellectual property rights or state-owned enterprises.

Canada and Mexico participated for the first time in the 15
th round of negotiations in Auckland, New Zealand in December 2012, after joining the talks in June 2012. Japan and the TPP partners are conducting bilateral consultations on its possible entrance as well. In addition, Thailand formally expressed its interest in joining the negotiations during President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2012.

The TPP originally grew out of an FTA among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, which came into force in 2006. Fifteen rounds of negotiations have occurred since the beginning of formal talks in 2010. In addition to negotiations on new trade rules among all the parties, the talks include U.S. market access negotiations—seeking removal of quotas and tariffs on traded products—with New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam as well as market access negotiations among other parties. The United States has FTAs in force with Chile, Singapore, Australia, Peru, and with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico, although new disciplines may be negotiated in the course of the talks covering issues beyond those in the existing FTAs.

The TPP serves several strategic goals in U.S. trade policy. First, it is the leading trade policy initiative of the Obama Administration, and is a manifestation of the Administration’s “pivot” to Asia. It provides both a new set of trade negotiations following the implementation of the bilateral FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and an alternative venue to the stalled Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO. If concluded, it may serve to shape the economic architecture of the Asia-Pacific region by harmonizing existing agreements with U.S. FTA partners, attracting new participants, and establishing regional rules on new policy issues facing the global economy—possibly providing impetus to future multilateral liberalization under the WTO.

Date of Report: January 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 60
Order Number: R42694
Price: $29.95

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