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Details of Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Revealed

The long-awaited text of a landmark U.S.-backed Pacific trade deal was released on Thursday, revealing details of the agreement for the first time.
Image: Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles.MARK RALSTON / AFP - Getty Images

The long-awaited text of a landmark U.S.-backed Pacific trade deal was released on Thursday, revealing the details of a pact aimed at freeing up commerce in 40 percent of the world's economy.

If ratified, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a legacy-defining achievement for U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration's pivot to Asia, aimed at countering China's rising economic and political influence.

China has responded with its own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed 16-nation free-trade area including India that would be the world's biggest such bloc, encompassing 3.4 billion people.

Image: Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles.MARK RALSTON / AFP - Getty Images

The TPP, which will set common standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property protection in 12 Pacific nations, was kept largely from public scrutiny during negotiations, angering transparency advocates concerned over its broad implications.

Read the Text, Posted By New Zealand Government

"The TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century," Obama said in post online. "If we don't pass this agreement - if America doesn't write those rules - then countries like China will."

The White House formally notified Congress on Thursday that the president intends to sign the deal, starting a 90-day clock before his signature triggers the next step in the process of seeking final congressional approval.

It is opposed by labor unions and many of Obama's fellow Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who backed the developing trade pact when she was secretary of state during Obama's first term.

Some pro-trade Republican lawmakers are also wary of the deal, heralding a tough fight to get it through Congress, something not expected before March. Republican White House contender Donald Trump has labeled it a "disaster."

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he is reserving judgment on the deal.

"I look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement that was released today," Ryan said in a statement about the deal. "Enactment of TPP is going to require the administration to fully explain the benefits of this agreement and what it will mean for American families. I continue to reserve judgment on the path ahead."

The deal does not include measures demanded by some U.S. lawmakers to punish currency manipulation with trade sanctions or set monopoly periods for next-generation biologic drugs at 12 years. All 12 members of the TPP, however, pledged not to deliberately weaken their currencies in a declaration accompanying the deal.

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Agreement on the pact, which was more than five years in the making, was trumpeted a month ago after intense talks in Atlanta broke a deadlock over trade in dairy products, pharmaceuticals and autos.

The fine print will be important. Details on local content thresholds for the auto industry are sketchy, for example, and U.S. footwear importers are waiting to see how long duties will stay.

The TPP would be a boon for factory and export economies like Malaysia and Vietnam. Anticipated tariff perks are already luring record foreign investment into Vietnamese manufacturing and both countries are expected to see increased demand for their key exports, from palm oil and rubber to electronics, seafood and textiles.

That could put pressure on several of Asia's major developing economies, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which have recently expressed interest in signing up to the pact. Thailand said it was studying the deal and may consider joining.

Japan has pledged to ease trade barriers on imported French fries and butter - products which have been in short supply in the Asian market - while Malaysia will eliminate tariffs on all imported alcohol for the first time in a trade agreement.

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Other firsts cited by the partners - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam - include the first commitments to discourage imports of goods produced by forced labor and to adopt laws on acceptable working conditions, and the first prohibition on harmful fisheries subsidies.