Details of a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal released Thursday set the stage for a raucous debate in the U.S. Congress but also may provide reassurances to those who worried the agreement could gut protections for the environment, public health and labor.
The text of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries including Japan and Mexico runs to 30 chapters and hundreds of pages. It is mind-boggling in its detail, laying out plans for the handling of trade in everything from zinc dust to railway sleepers and live eels.
Governments of the 12 member countries released the complete text online Thursday, making public the specifics of an agreement that critics complain was forged in secrecy.
The documents show the pact reached Oct. 5 in Atlanta after several years of talks is chock full of good intentions. Negotiators agreed to promote environmental sustainability, respect the rights and needs of indigenous peoples, and temper protections for drug patents with safeguards for public health and access to medicines.
It also emphasizes the intention of the trading bloc to abide by earlier commitments made under the World Trade Organization and other international treaties.
That’s no guarantee the pact won’t raise hackles with U.S. lawmakers who have questioned whether it will help U.S. exports and create jobs or just expose more American workers to low-wage competition, giving multinational corporations excessive power.
Under a trade law passed earlier this year, President Barack Obama must give the public time to review the text before he signs the agreement and turns it over to Congress for approval. Lawmakers can’t nitpick the deal with amendments. They must simply vote yes or no. Congress is likely to take up the issue next year in the heat of the presidential election campaign.
Obama faces fierce resistance to the deal from within his own Democratic Party. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said she’s against it. Her opposition may make it harder for Obama to round up votes.
Leave a Reply