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Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: What is it?

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During the recent November 2011 APEC meeting in Hawaii, one of the key announcements was  the agreement by nine of the members on the broad outlines of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between their countries. Those nine countries, in alphabetical order are: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.  There are now other countries who wish to join this partnership, and who will be consulted as part of the on-going process. While the will by all to complete this agreement remains to be seen, the TPP is a worthy ideal due to the scope it has taken on. Where other FTA’s might focus largely on tariff reduction, the TPP seeks to work at many of the " behind the border" issues raised at APEC in Sydney in 2007, that impact on the free flow of trade and services between nations. These include the issues of competition (a level playing field), cooperation and capacity building , cross-border services (including services supplied electronically), customs (faster and more predictable) e-commerce, environment, financial services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, labour, legal issues, market access to goods, rules of origin, phytosanitory standards, technical barriers to trade, telecommunications, temporary entry, textiles & apparel and trade remedies. If agreement can be reached and a TPP comes into effect, it will really be a step forward in the area of trade facilitation, and hopefully set the scene for more efficient, less costly, and more streamlined trading between the partners. It’s a big task, so we wish them well and will watch the outcome with interest.

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