Opposition, Obstacles to Trade Pact Escalate

Criticism is mounting about the lack of transparency in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that represents a greater interest in Southeastern Asia on the part of notable nations in North and South America, among others.

Part of an alleged TPP draft unearthed by WikiLeaks and printed in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald in the last week suggested plans to strengthen the stronghold of U.S.- and Japanese-based pharmaceutical and computer technology multinationals, as well as impose tougher restrictions and heavier enforcement on copyright/intellectual property “infringement” of various kinds, all of which could mean a spike in prices, especially outside of the U.S., for products in such areas. Additionally, some analysts argue that some portions of the plan amount to limits on Internet free speech.

Meanwhile, two letters made public in the last week from Congressional groups, one from within each party, called for more power, involvement and “checks and balances” on the part of federal lawmakers in the trade negotiation process. A November 8 letter drafted by a dozen Democrats noted the administration “must ensure that Congress plays a more meaningful role” in the reauthorization of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast track” authority. President Barack Obama wants this in order to ease and speed up the TPP agreement, as well as another free trade agreement with the European Union. The last TPA agreement ended in 2007.

The U.S. Congress, known throughout the world for its partisan-fueled inability to come to nearly any significant long-term policy agreement, in its attempt to garner more power and involvement in talks that already include nearly a dozen other nations, does not bode well for speedy enactment of a trade pact that once appeared to be on the fast track.  The TPP also includes Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and Australia.

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

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