CRF Blog

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Explained

by Bill Hayes

In 11 short cards, Vox explains the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here is the first card:

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade agreement being negotiated among countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, including the United States, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, and Chile.

This map from the Congressional Research Service shows the countries that are expected to join the TPP and the volume of US trade with each of them. The TPP is expected to reduce trade barriers among these countries, lowering tariffs on goods such as trucks, rice, and textiles.

But it will do a lot of other things, too. The agreement could require countries to adopt stricter labor and environmental rules, provide stronger legal protections to drug companies, lengthen the term of copyright protection, give foreign investors a new way to challenge countries’ laws and regulations, and much more.

In short, modern trade deals like the TPP are about a lot more than just trade. They’ve become one of the major ways the world hashes out the rules of the global economy. And that’s a big reason the deal has become controversial. For example, digital rights groups and global health advocates who are not normally focused on trade issues have warned that the deal could negatively impact digital innovation and the global effort to combat AIDS, among other things.

Critics also say the process of drafting the TPP is deeply flawed. Negotiations over the TPP’s terms are conducted in secret, with well-connected interest groups having access to more information — and more opportunities to influence the process — than members of the general public.

President Obama is struggling to convince Congress to grant him “fast track” authority, which would guarantee the TPP a prompt up-or-down vote in Congress. He faces particular skepticism from members of his own party in part because of lobbying from labor groups and the opposition of liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). [more]