The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released the complete text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – a huge trade pact among 12 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. The agreement is also a big deal in its volume, with 30 chapters, four annexes, 55 “related instruments,” and two bilateral non-tariff agreements with Japan. According to the New Zealand trade minister, when New Zealand released the text earlier, “the large number of documents released today amount to over 6,000 pages of text and market access schedules.”
The Parties to the TPP are a mix of large, developed economies and smaller emerging markets: United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Brunei.
The release of the text itself doesn’t yet trigger the mandated timeline for reports and Congressional consideration. It’s going to be a long process, as mandated by Trade Promotion Authority (the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015). The President first has to send his letter of intent to Congress to enter into the agreement. That letter will trigger the no more than 30-day timeline for the statutorily mandated reports from the USTR committees. Now that the text has been released to the public, the President must wait 60 days before he can sign it. After it is signed, Congress has significant time to review the agreement, schedule “mock markups” in relevant committees, and recommend changes in the pact. After that process, the President then sends legislation implementing the agreement to Congress, which then can take 90 legislative days to consider the legislation and vote up or down.
It will obviously be a challenge to digest this massive pact. And undoubtedly, the public and Congressional discussions will be lively. Adding to the contentiousness is the fact that extensive non-trade related chapters have been incorporated by special interests from all sides. Labor unions got a big labor chapter – but want more. Environmental groups have a wide-ranging conservation chapter that includes dispute settlement procedures equivalent to those for traditional trade disputes. They too want more. The Investor chapter – even before it was released – has led to rabid opponents saying it would undermine sovereign nations’ environmental and safety laws. The Intellectual Property chapter has pharmaceutical companies on the defensive regarding the protection of biologics.
It reinforces the view that CEI has expressed over the years – beginning with consideration of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trade agreements should deal with trade. Opening up markets can lead to greater economic growth, which can then lead to improvements in work environments and more resources for environmental quality.