The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a large-scale trade agreement that was negotiated between twelve Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, the United States and Mexico, was concluded on October 5, 2015, after seven years of fairly intense negotiations. The ratification process is currently under way. It has been characterized by governments in North America as the natural next step in regional economic integration and the path to greater innovation and prosperity. The agreement's stated goal is to "promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections."
The strong push for the TPP stems out of several factors. First, multilateral negotiations within the context of the World Trade Organization's (WTO's) Doha Round of 2001 have largely stalled with no conclusion. In the past decade, there has been an acceleration of regional trade agreements as a result. Second, the TPP advances a 'rules-oriented' approach that includes many of the measures that the U.S. and Canada have sought in trade negotiations, including high standards for intellectual property rights, foreign direct investment, services liberalization, and internet access to name a few. Third, the TPP also plays a role in a 'rebalancing' strategy that on the one hand strengthens North American economic ties within the Asia Pacific and on the other hand provides a counterbalance to the influences of the missing partner, China.
The TPP would expand Canada's preferential access to the U.S. market enjoyed under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and it could well provide new export opportunities with other signatories, such as Vietnam and Japan. The TPP, like the FTA and NAFTA before it, has raised some concerns among environmentalists, trade unionists, public health professionals, and other activists, based on the expansiveness of the agreement, the perceived secrecy of the negotiations and the potential for significant change.
Based on the fact that it is a trading nation, whose prosperity is linked to enhanced access to foreign markets, Canada is expected to ratify the TPP. Prior to the most recent election, then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that he expected "signatures on the finalized text and deal early in the new year, and ratification over the next two years." The newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has promised to hold parliamentary hearings on the sweeping deal and consult with a large number of stakeholders before supporting ratification. Having said that, Mr. Trudeau campaigned on a platform that included a more expansive foreign policy and a more open trade policy.
In June 2015, the U.S. Congress passed 'fast track' or trade promotion authority (TPA) that was signed into law by President Obama, thus providing him impermanent power to negotiate trade deals to be ratified by Congress (or not) without amendment. Positioned as part of his 'pivot to Asia,' President Obama touts the strong labor and environmental standards and progressive nature of this agreement as being a model for the rules that the U.S. seeks in future agreements.
The TPP has generated considerable debate among and between those who see the agreement as a very positive approach to economic growth and a necessary next step in the integration of global trade and capital markets and those who see the many challenges that could arise from an agreement that provides for the freer movement of goods, services, and jobs and promises to reduce regulatory restrictions.