News in Asia Special Edition: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

So there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that President Obama is trying to push through Congress.

What is this partnership? It is a huge free trade deal between the U.S and eleven other countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. If this is reminding you of NAFTA, it’s pretty similar.

According to the official website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, this new trade agreement will accomplish the following:

  1. Make it easier to export and sell American goods.
  2. Enforce fundamental labor rights.
  3. Promote stronger environmental protections.
  4. Help small businesses benefit from fair trade.

Sounds good right? Well, if you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you know it’s not that simple.

There are 29 chapters to the treaty and they’re packed full of different regulations and rules. It’s also been kept tightly under wraps, so no one knows for sure what exactly is in it. However, some of the chapters have been leaked and its contents have labor unions, public health officials, internet freedom activists and environmental groups in a tizzy.

One of the biggest concerns is that the agreement will follow in the footsteps of the NAFTA agreement and outsource jobs overseas; particularly in the manufacturing and the service sector.

Another huge area of contention is intellectual property rights and patent protection for pharmaceuticals. The treaty could allow patents on medicines to be expanded and make it harder for generic drug makers to get approval for dispensing generic medicines. This could drive up costs for those who rely on lower cost medication. The Obama administration also wants stronger copyright protections on music and films. (RIP Pirate Bay.)

Finally, corporations could challenge any environmental regulations that may be detrimental to their business and profits.

Tl;dr: It looks like multinational corporations will benefit big time. The rest of us… maybe not so much.

Recently, the White House tried to pass a measure through Congress that would give the president fast-track approval, but it failed. President Obama was opposed by members of his own party. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have been some of the most vocal critics on the Democratic side. Nancy Pelosi came out against the partnership during the aforementioned vote and finally, Hillary Clinton went against the president on the partnership after remaining silent on the issue for weeks. Several of the GOP presidential candidates support the partnership, such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. Senators Rand Paul and Rick Santorum oppose it.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was set to be the lasting legacy that President Obama left in the area of foreign policy (arguably his weakest area during his presidency). Now, it looks like that may be in jeopardy. It’s becoming increasingly unpopular with progressives and even some conservatives. It’s something that could potentially affect millions of Americans, but it seems like it’s not on many people’s radar. Whether a candidate’s support or disapproval of the treaty will affect them in the upcoming election remains to be seen, but this something that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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