Multiple sources confirm that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) appears to have been derailed. Let us take a moment to celebrate, but there may now be a new set of acronyms to learn: EPA, AFTA, RCEP, FTAAP and TiSA.
American Enterprise Institute economist Derek Scissors says, “TPP is dead. The TPP is 99 percent or more killed by Trump winning.” Eurasia Group director Jon Lieber says, “Since the U.S. hasn’t ratified it, [Trump] can just declare that the U.S. is no longer involved and it will be a dead letter in the U.S. I expect he’ll do that. It’s effectively done.” And this evening The Globe and Mail reports, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is all but dead, now that the Obama administration has given up hope of a last-ditch effort to ratify it [during the lame-duck session of Congress].”
The newspaper highlights, “The Canadian government declined to comment on the fate of the TPP Friday, with a spokesman for International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland saying the Liberals will continue to seek the opinions of Canadians on the deal. …A former senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is [now] calling on Canada to shift focus and try to negotiate free-trade deals with Japan and other Asian countries. …Roland Paris, former top foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, urged Canada to ‘pursue Plan B’, which he said should be trade deals with Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN].”
In March 2012 it was announced that a Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was being sought. The last round of talks took place in November 2014. The Japan Times has reported, “Canada and Japan began negotiations on forming a comprehensive and high-level EPA in November 2012, before Japan joined the TPP talks [in 2013]. Canada entered the TPP talks in October 2012.”
ASEAN includes four TPP signatories (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam), plus Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma). The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) also includes the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. Tilleke & Gibbins explains, “The free flow of investment is a key component of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Higher levels of investment between ASEAN member states will increase the likelihood of disputes arising between private investors and governments. In response, the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), a multilateral treaty that provides the legal foundation for the AEC’s liberalized investment regime, establishes an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism (ISDR mechanism). The ISDR mechanism can be a useful, albeit limited, tool for resolving disputes between investors and ASEAN governments.
The 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would include seven of the twelve TPP signatories: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam. Reuters notes, “Analysts say the demise of the TPP could clear the way for China’s similar trade pact called RCEP.” It is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10-member ASEAN and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements with: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. RCEP would be consistent with World Trade Organization rules and all service sectors are subject to negotiations. On investment, the deal would cover the pillars of promotion, protection, facilitation and liberalization.
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development notes, “The scope of the free trade agreement covers goods, services, and investment, as well as competition, intellectual property rights, and dispute settlement. …While the [TPP and RCEP] share some overlaps in membership, there are some significant differences. Most notably, the United States is part of the TPP, but not RCEP. Meanwhile, China, India, and South Korea are in RCEP but not the TPP.”
It is also possible that we may see renewed momentum on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). In 2010, the 21-country Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (which includes all twelve TPP signatory countries) signed off on a plan to create this free trade agreement by 2020. Xinhua now reports, “A collective strategic study on issues related to the realization of FTAAP has been completed and the final version of the study along with recommendations will be presented to leaders at the [APEC] summit [in Lima this coming November 19-20].”
Canada has also been participating in talks on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). This deal would make it impossible for governments to reverse privatization or decrease the influence of the private sector, would promote deregulation, and is likely to include a state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism. The countries involved in this are eight of the twelve TPP signatories (Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States), plus Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the European Union. They have set a deadline of December 5-6 of this year to complete the talks on this agreement.
It should also be noted that Canada and China agreed this past September to launch exploratory talks towards a free trade agreement, beginning by undertaking a feasibility study. Trudeau and Chinese premier Li Keqiang have also pledged to double bilateral trade by 2025.
The Council of Canadians celebrates the demise of the TPP, but also rejects its likely successors – such as EPA, AFTA, RCEP, FTAAP, TiSA – that advance economic liberalization policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, government spending cuts, and greater power for transnational capital.