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By Len Bracken
Nov. 5 — The previously confidential text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement was released Nov. 5 by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative along with annexes, related instruments and the outcomes of the U.S.-Japan bilateral negotiations.
The agreement among the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries comprises 30 chapters covering traditional trade areas, such as market access, rules of origin and customs administration, as well as new areas, such as the chapter on “state-owned enterprises and designated monopolies” and another chapter on small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The agreement was concluded Oct. 5 in Atlanta, following more than five years of negotiations, at an extended meeting of the trade ministers from the TPP countries (193 ITD, 10/6/15).
The document release includes two annexes covering country-specific exceptions, known as “non-conforming measures” in the language of trade agreements, as well as annexes on financial services and state-owned enterprises. The exceptions generally grant countries narrow areas where they can refrain from upholding the trade-liberalizing commitments in the agreement.
The related instruments are primarily bilateral letter exchanges concerning a given chapter, but there are also numerous side agreements or “understandings” concerning the environmental provisions and an annex on “Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Pharmaceutical Products and Medical Devices” made up of separate bilateral texts between the U.S. and three other TPP members—Australia, Japan and Peru.
The bilateral U.S.-Japan outcomes text includes the results of the closely watched talks on vehicle trade focusing on non-tariff measures, as well as non-tariff measures covering numerous other areas, such as insurance, express delivery and investment.
“The ultimate decision as to whether the United States leads on trade remains with America's elected representatives, and we'll continue to work closely with Congress and all stakeholders to ensure this agreement can begin delivering on its promise as soon as possible,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a Nov. 5 statement coinciding with the TPP release.
New Zealand, which is the depository of TPP documents, said the TPP text will continue to undergo legal review and will be translated into French and Spanish language versions prior to signature by the TPP leaders. Auckland said that “in coming days” it will also release a legal summary of the agreement.
President Barack Obama Nov. 5—as required under trade promotion authority (TPA) rules—gave Congress 90-day notice of his intention to sign the TPP, giving lawmakers time to review the deal prior to the signing ceremony, which would take place in February at the earliest.
“This review process enables Congress to carefully scrutinize the agreement before it is signed, and if necessary, recommend changes to the agreement,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues and stakeholders throughout this process to determine whether this TPP agreement meets the high-standards set by TPA and whether it should be enacted into law.”
In related news, the U.S. Treasury Department and the finance ministries of the other TPP countries issued a joint declaration on currency and foreign exchange practices. The “Joint Declaration of the Macroeconomic Policy Authorities of Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries” is the first attempt to address unfair currency practices in a trade agreement by promoting transparency and accountability, the department said.
Numerous lawmakers issued statements on the TPP release, but Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, said in an Nov. 5 statement that Democrats on that panel would have public hearings on the agreement.
“Ways and Means Democrats are taking the lead and setting up hearings and forums to review the merits, and the impact of each of the key issues,” Levin said, referring to a series of in-depth public hearings to assess the merits of issues such as automotive and agricultural market access, rules of origin and competition policy for state-owned enterprises in the proposed agreement.
In a conference call with reporters, a Ways and Means Committee aide identified other issues of concern as: whether the environment chapter meets the standards set in May 2007 Bipartisan Agreement on Trade; Mexican compliance with the labor chapter; transition periods for pharmaceutical intellectual property rights protections, notably with regard to Peru; and an exception for Malaysia regarding foreign investment that would allow denials on the basis of national security.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) also issued statements on their intention to carefully review the TPP text, with the committee chairman pledging to give the administration the opportunity to answer all questions and address concerns before his committee votes on the trade pact.
“I continue to reserve judgment on the path ahead,” Ryan said. “But I remain hopeful that our negotiators reached an agreement that the House can support because a successful TPP would mean more good jobs for American workers and greater U.S. influence in the world.”
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) promised in a statement to dig into the details of the TPP, adding that he “fought hard” to make to ensure that the TPP was make public for citizens to read months before the president signs it, and even longer before Congress votes on the agreement.
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The TPP text can be found on the USTR website at https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/TPP-Full-Text.
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