TTP signing in 2016 - Photo via flickr.com

The origin of Trans-Pacific Partnership dates back to 2005. The Trans-Pacific partnership was aimed at easing laws to boost trade among the member countries. Trans-Pacific Partnership is solely an economic project.  In 2005 four countries of Pacific belt, namely Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore signed a trade agreement. This agreement was all about tariff cutoffs in trade between these countries. In 2008 US president George W Bush showed interest in this agreement and talks were started. These talks resulted in joining of USA, Australia, Vietnam, and Peru. When talks progressed this group expanded by the inclusion of Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Malaysia. So a group started with four countries now reached to 12 countries.

In the 2008 US presidential elections, Obama emerged as victorious. He maintained his interest in this trans-pacific partnership. In 2011 US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton declared TPP as a strategic asset for the USA in the Pacific region. Total nineteen meetings were concluded on the contents of Transpacific partnership. In 2015 the member states reached an acceptable agreement and a pact was finally signed in 2016.

In these meetings, the member states agreed upon economic reforms within their territory to make the business activities easier. For example, Japan’s agriculture industry opposed the tariff cutoffs, but Japanese government agreed upon this. Japan also agreed to reduce tariffs on its automobile market. While Canada agreed to soften the rules for access to its flourishing dairy market. In the meantime, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei agreed upon changing the labor laws while the USA agreed to meet the members demand of the pharmaceutical industry.

Unfortunately, the agreement could not impress the US Congress. TPP became the target of both the Republican and democrats presidential candidates in 2016. In 2017 US president Donald Trump finally pulled America out of TPP.

The final package of TPP consists of thirty chapters. This conclusive document deals with tariff cutoffs on products and services, E-Commerce standards, dispute solving structure, amendments in labor and environmental laws and much more. This agreement was aimed at creating a mechanized economic zone and providing long term rules for global trade. This agreement covers 40 percent of the world trade. For President Obama, the Transpacific partnership was a deal to counter China’s OBOR. According to Obama’s administration, this deal will help the US in maintaining its status of a Global power.

TPP Map – Photo via wikimedia.org

The main purpose of the Trans-Pacific partnership was to reduce tariffs on goods and services. This deal also involves liberalization of trade services. It includes lowering the monitoring of borders. It was ensured that fields of communication, Finance, and entertainment will not be compromised in any case.

Investment rules were also softened to meet the criteria of Trans-Pacific partnership. All the member states showed their consent on opening markets for investments from other TPP members. There was also a controversial section in TPP namely Investor-state dispute mechanism (ISDS) which permits investors to file a lawsuit against the state.

Guidelines on E-commerce were also part of TPP. In fact, it was the first deal of its kind to give importance to e-commerce. These guidelines bound the state to allow the limitless flow of information by the investors. According to this deal hurdles in the free flow of information will be removed.

Photo credit Flickr.com and USDA

The best part of this deal was the environmental and labor protection. This deal includes abolishing forced and child labor. TPP emphasizes on providing a suitable environment for workers. Provision of strengthening environmental protection was also made a part of this historic deal. Besides these all, there were also other incentives included in TPP. These include intense transparency, imposing restrictions on state-owned entities, and making rules feasible for small business entities to conclude cross border trade.

Many supporters of TPP believe that the TPP was the best opportunity for the USA to protect its economic and geopolitical designs. The supporters claim that lower tariff on goods can increase US exports.

The Trans-Pacific countries sum up 40 percent of the gross domestic product of the world. US International Trade Commission data reveals that the country’s trade volume with TPP is more than 1.5 trillion dollars. It makes 40 percent of the entire US trade in 2015. Japan is the world’s third largest economy, however the USA has no free trade agreement with Japan. But the USA has free trade agreements with many TPP states, including Australia, Mexico and Canada.

Economic experts believe that TPP can give an addition of 130 Billion dollars to US GDP till 2035. However, the USA may suffer an employment loss in manufacturing industries due to the rise of the agriculture industry. In 2011 US Secretary of State claimed that TPP will help the USA in maintaining its geostrategic interests in the Pacific region. She also opined that TPP will strengthen Asia-Pacific-Economic- Cooperation (APEC) forum. Now many economic experts believe that withdrawal from TPP will result in reduced US influence to counter the rise of China.

Protest against TPP – Photo via flickr.com

On the other hand, China is trying to conclude its own deal, namely Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This deal includes sixteen countries from Asia Pacific region, however, it excludes the United States of America. China has also launched its One Belt One Road Initiative, which involves many development projects in South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia, and Africa. It also involves a few countries in Europe.

In 2016 TPP was the target ball for US presidential candidates. Mr. Trump has maintained his long record of opposing TPP. Trump opines that this deal will shift manufacturing jobs to non-US citizens and can increase the trade deficit. Many Democrats also showed their consent on Trump’s behavior towards TPP. Many labor movements in the USA also strongly oppose the transpacific partnership. They claim that this deal will produce low standard working conditions and will damage the environment. They claim that TPP can repeat the bad experience of the North American free trade agreement(NAFTA) of 1994. NAFTA is believed to reduce jobs in the manufacturing industry. Labor tights movements in Canada and Australia also oppose TPP on the ground of cutoffs in salary and more influence of foreign investors in policy making.

After US withdrawal other member countries continued working on a new draft for Trans-Pacific partnership. This trade alliance was named as TPP-11. Now the member states were successful in making a new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It was finalized and signed in 2018 and it is currently operational around the region. But the USA is no more part of this mega project.

CPTPP has expansionist agenda. Recently South Korea, Colombia, and Thailand showed interest in joining CPTPP. Taiwan also wants to be the part of this deal, but its accession agreement to confront China can attract China’s opposition. Currently, Japan appears as the strongest member in CPTPP. In 2018 Japanese PM Mr. Shinzo Abe expressed his interest in including the United Kingdom in CPTPP. He also mentioned that geographic distances will not be a hurdle in the inclusion of the UK. This offer clearly reveals the intentions of CPTPP to make it a global agreement.