By Justin Kirschner
On Monday, October 5, the United States and eleven other nations representing forty percent of the global economy and a third of global trade agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional free trade agreement in history. The TPP lowers trade barriers for the twelve members in the agriculture, pharmaceutical, automobile and textile industries, just to name a few. It also imposes strict environmental, labor, intellectual property and cross-border data flow standards. China, notably, is not part of the deal. Though some see the TPP as a geopolitical effort to balance China’s rise, that view has softened to a point where Pacific-rim leaders, including those in the U.S., leave the door open to China’s accession.
Now that the deal has been inked, each country must approve the TPP through its own domestic political mechanism. In the U.S., pursuant to the Trade Promotion Authority Congress granted the president, Congress and the public will have 90 days to consider and debate the deal, at which point Senators and Representatives will vote up or down without the ability to amend. With the presidential campaign in full swing, and support for, or opposition to, the deal already making strange political bedfellows, the TPP is likely to be put through the political wringer before a vote happens in early 2016. For now, the deal stands as a seminal achievement in President Obama’s much-heralded pivot to Asia.