The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.
But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr. Obama spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal. Administration officials have repeatedly pressed their contention that the partnership would build a bulwark against China’s economic influence, and allow the United States and its allies — not Beijing — to set the standards for Pacific commerce.
The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.
Several potentially deal-breaking disputes kept the ministers talking through the weekend and forced them repeatedly to reschedule the promised Sunday announcement of the deal into the evening and beyond. Final compromises covered commercial protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, more open markets for dairy products and sugar, and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America.
Yet the trade agreement almost certainly will encounter stiff opposition.
Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection. Donald Trump has repeatedly castigated the Pacific trade accord as “a bad deal,” injecting conservative populism into the debate and emboldening some congressional Republicans who fear for local interests like sugar and rice, and many conservatives who oppose Mr. Obama at every turn.
Long before an accord was reached, it was being condemned by both Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats’ nomination. Other candidates also have been critical. Mrs. Clinton, who as secretary of state promoted the trade talks, has expressed enough wariness as she has campaigned among unions and other audiences on the left that her support is now in doubt.
We'll see where the TPP goes, but as with so many other things that this President has accomplished, those who bet against the guy end up losing big when he gets the job done. I think the TPP will pass and move on. How good that will be for US workers?
That's far more debatable.