ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Trans-Pacific Partnership

What It Portends

Negotiations towards concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement have reportedly reached an endgame phase. The participating countries are now negotiating market access for sensitive agricultural products, even as a wide gulf in positions exists on several rules and regulatory framework issues. Will the TPP countries be able to fi nalise the agreement this year? Will the US Congress ensure smooth passage of the TPP deal? This article examines these questions and the effect the TPP will have on the multilateral trading environment if it is successfully concluded.

Negotiations have been under way for more than four years to conclude a “high standard” Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. What began as an attempt to forge a comprehensive free trade and investment initiative among eight countries led by the US in Melbourne in March 2010 has now expanded to 12 countries that account for a quarter of international trade and 40% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).1 Claims have been made that the negotiations have reached the final stages with some assessing it as 80% done even as there are reports about still unresolved issues and a continuing gulf in positions on several sensitive and critical areas. The chief negotiators and the trade ministers of TPP countries are now meeting every other month. These are being supplemented by bilateral meetings and frequent gatherings of subject matter specialists.

What distinguishes the TPP from the more than 400 free trade agreements (FTAs) globally under implementation or under negotiation is its size, scope, and depth of proposed concessions.2 It is seeking to take a more comprehensive approach towards market access by eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers on goods, and by adopting a negative listing approach to services commitments. More significantly, it is proposing to cover many behind the border measures aimed at disciplining state-owned enterprises (SOEs), observing competition rules, ensuring regulatory coherence, facilitating supply chains, setting out labour and environment standards, and securing more protection for intellectual property rights (IPRs), including patents and copyrights.

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