Trans-Pacific Partnership: Ocean’s Twelve - FT.com: If all goes to plan, within a few months the world will have an enormous new trading bloc that will affect everything from how public tenders are conducted in Australia to what kind of thread Vietnamese tailors can use. The new trade zone, which would stretch from the US to New Zealand and from Japan to Peru, would be the first self-styled “21st-century trading agreement” and, arguably, the most important advance for free trade in two decades.
But what, precisely, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership? To some, it is the “gold standard” of trade deals. They argue that the 12-member club of aspiring free-trade purists led by the US can jump-start the stalled multilateral Doha round, which the World Trade Organisation initiated in 2001 to break down global trade barriers.
To opponents, the TPP is a “giant corporate power grab” that would endanger food safety, access to medicines and national sovereignty. Some others regard the project as a commercial irrelevance, or at best a US geopolitical exercise in Asian re-engagement gussied up in free-trade clothing. In China, official media have suspected that the deal has more insidious goals than simply forging a trade alliance, accusing the US of corralling Pacific nations against Beijing’s interests.
The would-be agreement had humble beginnings. Initially a trade pact envisaged by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, the TPP was transformed in 2008 when the US expressed its interest. Since then, the TPP has expanded to 12 members, bringing in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam. Most significantly, this year, Japan – often considered a free-trade laggard – surprised many by entering the talks. Its entry brings a critical mass to a deal that, if completed, would cover countries that account for two-fifths of global output and one-third of international trade.