10-Point Expert: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal Brouhaha

Because sometimes conversations that is taking place around the deal deserves its own 10-Point Expert.



A little lost when it comes to issues of public policy? Felling like this guy? Well relax, we’re here to help. This is 10-Point Expert, a series of articles that examine policies which are currently being introduced to the political landscape, in 10 simple to understand points. For this installment we talk about “the talk” around the newly agreed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal!



Point 1: We think we should get this point out of the way first and foremost. Majority of people, with the exception of what the Obama administration calls “advisors”, have not actually seen what’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. The language is not out there yet. It will be soon, but just keep that in mind.




Point 2: The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal (or TPP) is a trade deal made with 12 Pacific Rim countries that would closely link their economies going forward. The deal has wide ranging ramifications for all the countries involved ranging from the labor workforce in the US to textile prices in Brunei.



Point 3: The 12 countries that are participating in the TPP deal are:

  • United States

  • Brunei

  • Chile

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • Japan

  • Malaysia

  • Mexico

  • Peru

  • Vietnam



Point 4: For the US, this deal was said to have taken place for two reasons. One, the TPP deal establishes a foothold in Asian trade, which many individuals like President Barack Obama insist is vital for US’ economic future. And two, many US allies see the TPP as a “check” on China’s economic stronghold on Asian trade. As Asian countries become bigger players in the world economic stage, the TPP deal gives US a chance to reduce China’s economic clout on the region, especially since countries in Asia are starting to reconsider business with China due to their recent slowing economy.


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Point 5: The deal took about seven years to complete, all 12 nations entered negotiations in 2008. While it was only supposed to take two years to negotiate, many issues continued to surface, one specifically regarding legal protections to the pharmaceutical industry. The Obama administration – along with a major lobbying push from US drug companies – insisted on rules that would limit “copy-cat drugs” and boost drug prices. However many nations – along with public health groups – pushed back claiming if prices were raised then millions of individuals would not be able to afford their prescription, which in turn would cost lives. Eventually both sides reached an agreement expanding protections for US drug companies while drug companies agreed take less money than what they originally asked for.


Point 6: To be frank, the TPP is a monster trade deal and its scope goes further than what most traditional trade deals do. The language for the deal is expansive as it is deep. The reason for this is that the 12 nations looked at the TPP as a vehicle for binding international contracts. This is smart considering many of these countries – who wouldn’t have the necessary international clout to get these deals done on their own – now have written provisions in place stating everyone has to uphold to the various agreements, otherwise they risk getting fined through heavy tariffs.


Point 7: Unfortunately, special interest groups also figured this out and added their own provisions into the TPP deal. After years of lobbying, special interest groups that represent many different interests ranging from Hollywood (protecting copyright claims and fighting international piracy) to American pharmaceuticals (reducing the number of “copy-cat drugs” and getting larger international profits) to multi-national corporations (the outsourcing of US labor and the potential lax of environmental standards abroad) to foreign automakers (placed rules to make foreign cars – specifically Japanese models – artificially low). Those are just a few that we know of. Over the coming months as more people get a hold of the deal, more lobbying efforts will probably surface.


Point 8: As you may have guessed, not everyone is happy with the TPP deal in the US. In respects to various sectors, some of the major ones that look to have the biggest gripes with the deal include US automakers (because low foreign car costs), labor unions (because they were not part of the negotiations and fear US labor could go overseas because it’s cheaper), the tobacco industry (they can’t bully countries that are trying to create anti-smoking regulations as explained by John Oliver in this clip), and environmental groups (lax environmental standards) just to name a few. So yeah… the TPP creates some strange bedfellows.



Point 9: Speaking of strange bedfellows, that also extends to those that oppose the deal in Congress. The most vocal opponent to the deal so far has been Sen. Elizabeth Warren stating that the deal gives multi-national corporations too much power. Many liberal democrats have agreed with Sen. Warren’s sentiments. Even Republicans like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah has shown concern over the deal saying that the deal fell “woefully short.” Especially next year being an election year – where some politicians may be hesitant to back a controversial trade deal – the TPP could be a hard sell in Congress.


Point 10: While President Obama will have a tough time selling the deal to Congress, it’s important to remember that earlier this year the White House along with a GOP led Congress passed the fast-track bill for a TPP vote. Or the TPA rules if you will! That means the approval of the TPP bill bypasses the threat of filibuster and “poison pill” amendments that could sink the vote. If there is a silver-lining to President Obama trying to get Congress to vote for the deal, it’s that.



(Photo Credits: Google Images, Hasbro)


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