The US and other eleven countries along the Pacific Rim have signed the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is considered to be one of the world’s biggest multilateral trading agreements. The pact, which could bring significant impacts to 40% of the world economy, was signed in New Zealand after five years of intense negotiations.
The 12 nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the ceremony in Auckland said that the signing is “an important step” but the agreement “is still just a piece of paper, or rather over 16,000 pieces of paper until it actually comes into force.”
The TPP will now undergo a two-year ratification period in which at least six countries – that account for 85 per cent of the combined gross domestic production of the 12 TPP nations – must approve the final text for the deal to be implemented.
Opposition from many US Democrats and some Republicans could mean a vote on the TPP is unlikely before President Barack Obama, a supporter of the TPP, leaves office early in 2017.
Hailing the signing of one of the biggest multinational trade deals in history, Obama said: “TPP will bolster our leadership abroad and support good jobs here at home,” he said.
“Right now, the rules of global trade too often undermine our values and put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. TPP will change that. It eliminates more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on Made in America products,” POTUS added.
“It promotes a free and open internet and prevents unfair laws that restrict the free flow of data and information. It includes the strongest labour standards and environmental commitments in history – and, unlike in past agreements, these standards are fully enforceable,” he said. “TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific.”
He also asked the lawmakers to enact the deal into law as soon as possible so that the American economy can immediately start benefiting from the tens of billions of dollars in new export opportunities.
However, there is a widespread protest against the multilateral deal, in various countries at the grass root levels. The bone of contentions include the secrecy surrounding TPP talks, reduced access to things like affordable medicines, and a clause which allows foreign investors the right to sue if they feel their profits have been impacted by a law or policy in the host country.
In New Zealand on Thursday more than 1,000 protesters caused traffic disruptions in and around Auckland and police said a large number of police have been deployed.
While Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz predicted “robust democratic discussion” in his South American nation, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the agreement would be tabled next week in parliament. Opposition to the deal in Australia has been building, but Robb was confident it would be approved, despite the government not control the Senate.