After months of secrecy, the long-awaited details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was released Thursday, as the text over the free-trade agreement that will impact almost half of the world’s economy was unveiled.
If ratified, the TPP will be a landmark move for President Barack Obama, who had to rely on Republicans for support in fast-tracking the trade approval earlier this year. Because the deal focuses on countering China’s growing economic influence in Asia, the agreement has prompted other trade deals, such as the Dragon’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership proposal, a 16-nation free-trade area including India that would become the largest trading bloc with two of the most populous countries.
The trade deal will set common standards of economic issues, such as worker’s rights and intellectual property, for 12 Pacific nations, including Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States. During the negotiations, the trade details were kept quiet to avoid politicization from various factions among the nations.
“The TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century,” Obama posted online. “If we don’t pass this agreement – if America doesn’t write those rules – then countries like China will.”
The efforts by the White House to frame the message towards China is an effort to maintain support among those who voted for the fast track approval for the free trade agreement. A senior Obama official said Congress will likely be notified formally later Thursday of the president’s intention to sign the agreement. This would trigger a 90-day clock requiring congressional approval of the deal.
Labor unions and other liberal groups have opposed the deal. Hillary Clinton, who once was instrumental in moving forward on the trade negotiations, has tried to capitalize on that opposition by now going against the deal in her run for president.
There are also some Republican lawmakers who oppose the deal, including presidential candidate Donald Trump who called it a “disaster.” Newly-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan said he is reserving judgement of the deal until he has read the text of the trade agreement.
“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,” Ryan said in a statement. “I continue to reserve judgment on the path ahead.”
Not included in the trade deal is a measure to punish currency manipulation with sanctions or establish monopoly periods for biologic drugs at 12 years, key issues required by some American lawmakers. In an effort to lose support, all 12 members of the trade agreement pledged not to purposefully weaken currencies in a declaration attached to the deal.