Thursday, April 25, 2013
Ian F. Fergusson, Coordinator
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance
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. On March 15, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would seek to participate in the TPP negotiations. On April 12, 2013, the Obama Administration announced that bilateral talks had concluded and that the United States was prepared to support Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations, subject to the consensus of the other TPP partners. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to 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 concluded in Singapore on March 14, 2013, and the 17th round is scheduled to be held in Lima, Peru in May 2013. The current goal is to reach an agreement in time for the October 2013 APEC summit in Indonesia. 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.
Twenty-nine chapters in the agreement are under discussion. The United States is negotiating market access for goods, services, and agriculture with countries with which it does not currently have FTAs: Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Negotiations are also being conducted on disciplines to intellectual property rights, trade in services, government procurement, investment, rules of origin, competition, labor, and environmental standards and other issues. In many cases, the rules being negotiated are intended to be more rigorous than comparable rules found in the WTO. Some topics, such as state-owned enterprises, regulatory coherence, and supply chain competitiveness, break new ground in FTA negotiations. As the countries that make up the TPP negotiating partners include advanced industrialized, middle income, and developing economies, the TPP, if implemented, may involve substantial restructuring of the economies of some participants.
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. 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.
As the negotiations proceed, a number of issues important to Congress are emerging. One is whether the United States can balance its vision of creating a “comprehensive and high standard” agreement with a large and expanding group of countries, while not insisting on terms that other countries will reject. Another issue is how Congress will consider the TPP, if concluded. The present negotiations are not being conducted under the auspices of formal trade promotion authority (TPA)—the latest TPA expired on July 1, 2007—although the Administration informally is following the procedures of the former TPA. If TPP implementing legislation is brought to Congress, TPA may need to be considered if the legislation is not to be subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection. Finally, Congress may seek to weigh in on the addition of new members to the negotiations, before or after the negotiations conclude.
Date of Report: April 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 62
Order Number: R42694
R42694.pdf to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART
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