Often touted as the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s re-engagement with Asia, a close vote in the US Senate has brought the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a major step closer to becoming law. Facing significant opposition within his own party, the US president has secured fast-track negotiating authority, limiting Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate the contents of the trade accord.
Though the US Congress and American public will have an opportunity to review the deal before it is voted on, fast-track passage procedure reduces time for debate and prohibits amendments to the proposed legislation, limiting Congress to passing an up-or-down vote on the deal. Negotiated behind closed doors and drafted under tremendous secrecy for nearly a decade, elected representatives have thus far had limited access to the draft text.
The negotiations, intended to eventually create a multilateral trade and foreign investment agreement, involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Comprising some 40 percent of the world’s economy, the trade pact represents Washington’s response to the rising influence of China, which is not a participant, despite being the region’s largest economy and the largest trading partner of Asia-Pacific economies.
Bringing together a diverse grouping of culturally and economically disparate countries, the pact aims to enforce a common regulatory framework that governs rules for tariffs and trade disputes, patents and intellectual property, banking, foreign investment and more. The deal is widely seen as being representative of Washington’s long-term commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.
Rebranding the Asia Pivot