Trade ministers of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, but the final ratification of the ambitious deal in the TPP members’ countries is far from certain, particularly in the United States.
“After more than 5 years of intensive negotiations, we have come to an agreement that will support jobs, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development, and promote innovation across the Asia-Pacific region,” said US Trade Representative Michael Froman said at a closing press conference after about 5 days of round-the-clock TPP ministerial meeting was concluded.
Mr. Froman said negotiators will continue to work on technical issues for preparing a complete text for public release, including the legal review, translation, and drafting and verification of the text, to formalize the outcomes of the agreement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would affect 40% of the world economy. Trade officials had originally planned to wrap up the talks in Atlanta, GA on Thursday, but a final deal was delayed by debate over agricultural market access, rules of origin for autos and intellectual property protection for a new generation of drugs known as biologics..
While negotiators have touted the expanding opportunities for trade and investment in goods and services among the 12 countries, trade unions, environmental groups, consumer and heath care organizations across the US have come together to organize protests against the TPP in front of the Westin Hotel in Atlanta, the site of the TPP negotiations, out of various concerns.
Some influential US lawmakers are also cautious about the final TPP trade agreement announced Monday.
As US President Barack Hussein Obama has to notify Congress at least 90 days before he can sign the TPP agreement, it still has a long way to go before the deal reaches US Congress for possible ratification.
The earliest date for a final TPP vote in US Congress would be in February 2016, when presidential nomination contests kick off in early voting states including Iowa and New Hampshire.
Several Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have begun attacking the TPP, raising concerns about potential job losses in the United States. As the TPP could become one of the hot-button issues in the US presidential campaign, it will be very difficult for US Congress to pass the trade deal next year.
The TPP could be voted on expeditiously in Congress next year only if Congressional leaders and the Obama administration work closely together to craft an implementing legislation for the trade agreement.
China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said earlier this year that China is open to all the free trade arrangements that are beneficial to the world’s trade liberalization and regional economic integration, as long as they are open and transparent.
China will continue to study and assess the impact of the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), another free trade agreement under negotiations by the US and EU on regional and global levels, and in the meantime pursuing and accelerating China’s own free trade zone strategies, said Gao.