Bernard K. Gordon
Why the United States Needs the Trans-Pacific Partnership
As the Doha Round of global trade talks nears its 12th year with no end in sight, the negotiations have all but failed. Frustrated with Doha’s stagnation and eager to expand trade and secure alliances,
Despite these results, the bilateral approach doesn’t offer much promise. The passage of last year’s deals ended a five-year standoff between, on the one side, most Republicans in the
To move its trade agenda forward, the
But the TPP faces obstacles. Critics in several nations involved in the negotiations fear that
As currently proposed, the TPP would go well beyond categories traditionally included in trade agreements. To begin with, over the next decade, it would gradually remove all tariffs on trade between member states. Following the model of the FTA between
But the TPP cannot achieve that potential without
Enticed by that possibility, the Obama administration has made the TPP the keystone of its trade policy, and it is doing all that it can to shape the agreement in the United States’ favor. For example, it has emphasized encouraging and protecting the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises. Such businesses generally have little experience in dealing with imports or exports, but
The administration has supported these proposals not to harm consumers but to protect American innovators. Intellectual property is already a major source of value for
Despite the broad interest in strong intellectual property protections among some countries negotiating the TPP, some nations continue to charge that
Meanwhile, during the same meeting in
The U.S. government has not addressed every accusation leveled against it in the TPP process, but in late February,
The issue came to a head this past February, when 23 U.S. organizations representing the libraries of virtually every American research institution and university urged the Obama administration to “mandate public access” to the negotiation draft texts. They argued that the provisions of the TPP “will touch every American family” and that “the enforceability and permanence of such binding rules . . . necessitate maximal transparency.” Days later, Senator
Unsatisfied with Kirk’s response, Wyden introduced legislation that would require the disclosure of any TPP negotiating text “not later than 24 hours after the document is shared with other parties.” Wyden’s proposal failed to gain traction, but the clamor for more openness in the TPP talks remains, both in
A New Kind Of Deal
If the TPP negotiations bear fruit,
That is why the U.S. government hopes to complete the broad outlines of a final deal by the end of the year. But first it must win over domestic opposition to the TPP, especially among the country’s automotive, insurance, and agricultural sectors. It also needs to accommodate, wherever possible, the concerns of critics at home and abroad about its intellectual property demands. And it must shed more light on the negotiating process. If the Obama administration fails to take these steps, then it may miss an opportunity to pave the way for a new kind of trade agreement and to reaffirm its economic and political stake in the Pacific.
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