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Talking Trade blog

Pop open the sparkling wine: Round 2 for TPP

Published 09 March 2018

Almost exactly eight years after it all began, trade ministers and senior officials from 11 countries gathered in Santiago, Chile, to sign off on the final documents for the most important trade agreement in decades.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP or TPP11) brings together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. 

Negotiations started in March 2010.  The original deal was finished in January 2016 with 12 parties.  When the United States withdrew a year later, many people expected the agreement to die a quiet death. 

However, officials persevered and fought hard to maintain the high quality of the trading arrangements.  For many, this meant accepting tough provisions originally negotiated as part of a comprehensive package with 12 members. 

The consequences of the final agreement are important for companies.  

The final agreement signed in Chile pared back the commitments by suspending 19 elements, amending one provision, and clarifying the terms for two others. 

There are also--like the original deal--some side letters between parties.  These side instruments are not all out yet, so the Asian Trade Centre will release another Policy Brief that assesses the impact in greater detail.  

What we can say is that the side letters out so far cover a variety of topics, from the very narrow and specific to potentially more sweeping.  As an example of the former, New Zealand has granted recognition to tequila, mezcal, bacanora, charanda, and sotol coming from Mexico. 

An example of the latter is Canada's series of letters with members to change its original TPP commitments on services.  The original TPP agreement already had a reservation lodged by Canada to preserve the right to restrict services suppliers and investors in the cultural industries sectors.  This has been extended and clarified in an exchange of letters, as this sample shows.

New Zealand also received an exemption from the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) protections for its own investors operating in Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.  In these jurisdictions, alternative arrangements appear to have been made.  

Canada also signed a set of letters with Australia, Japan and Malaysia on autos, as well as a host of other issues with other parties.  The auto letters with Australia and Malaysia dealt with rules of origin, while the Japan letter clarified the standards needed for autos into Japan.  Note that Canada and Japan have an existing annex on autos in the original TPP text.

There appear to be a slew of letters between members on electronic payment services.  Vietnam received an exemption on data rules for five years from (at least) Canada for five years.  In short, firms should examine the side letters carefully to see if there are any hidden surprises inside.

Otherwise, the final CPTPP contains the same market access pledges between the 11 parties as originally negotiated for goods, services, investment, government procurement, state-owned enterprises, and business mobility. 

The full text of the TPP11 is available here. The text has now has two parts: the CPTPP which contains 9 pages and the original TPP that is incorporated by reference.  (The Asian Trade Centre has printed the legal texts in book form, which is available for purchase.  All market access schedules are available here.  Anything US-specific is, of course, dormant.

Now that the agreement has been signed, the focus moves towards implementation and entry into force.  The agreement will take effect as soon as 6 members complete “domestic procedures.”  For some countries, this involves formal ratification in the legislature.  Every member will need to ensure that domestic laws and regulations are in conformity with the CPTPP.  Once this is done, the member country will notify New Zealand (as the official depository country).  When six have done so, 60 days later, the CPTPP enters into force for these members.

Some governments and smaller firms across Asia will likely need assistance with implementation. Entry into force for CPTPP is likely to happen faster than many expect.  Firms need to start preparing now as the early phases of the CPTPP are complicated.  The agreement opens up opportunities that may not have been present in the past.

Given the broad and deep commitments across 30 chapters in the CPTPP, the agreement was always going to deliver substantial benefits to member countries.

What does appear to have changed since the original TPP was negotiated though, is the overall trade policy environment.  The simultaneous announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs by the United States on the same day as the CPTPP signature is striking.

At a time of potential global upheaval in major markets, the commitment of TPP members to open markets, greater transparency in regulatory policymaking, and reduced risk of sudden policy changes is extremely important. 

© The Hinrich Foundation. See our website Terms and conditions for our copyright and reprint policy. All statements of fact and the views, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the author(s).

Dr. Elms is Head of Trade Policy at the Hinrich Foundation in Singapore.  Prior to joining the Foundation, she was the Executive Director and Founder of the Asian Trade Centre (ATC). She was also President of the Asia Business Trade Association (ABTA) and the Board Director of the Asian Trade Centre Foundation (ATCF).

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