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Talking Trade blog

The final CPTPP text is out


Published 21 February 2018

The final version of the TPP was released this morning. After more than a year of renegotiation, the release seems like a bit of an anticlimax—the whole “text” is 9 pages.

This does understate the issue, of course, since the entire original agreement is now incorporated by reference.

The eleven country members are meeting in Chile on March 8 for signature.  TPP11 is on track to begin later this year.  Firms should no longer delay.  The benefits on offer are substantial.  

For regular readers of Talking Trade, I’m delighted to report that you already knew what the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) contains. 

As previously outlined, the revised version hews very closely to the original. This was a hotly contested point in the negotiations.  Given the careful balance of the original document, officials were worried that a deep renegotiation would take another five years and would quickly devolve into a complicated, impossible mess. 

Hence, the revised version maintains all of the original commitments in market access.  No changes have been made in any of the country-specific pledges for goods, services, investment, state-owned enterprises, government procurement, or business mobility. 

The final text has been cut down from roughly 622 pages to something closer to 580 pages with the removal of what are now 22 “suspended” elements. 

The only changes in the newly released text are the addition of two new elements.  Brunei and Malaysia both got greater clarification on exactly when specific provisions will take effect.  For Brunei, this applies to Annex II reservations on coal.  For Malaysia, it simply clarifies that its SOE commitments start from its date of entry into force (and not signature).

The CPTPP will come into force, as expected, 60 days after the 6th country (or 50% of the signatories) finish domestic ratification procedures and notifies New Zealand. 

For any member that is not part of the original grouping, the agreement will take effect 60 days after it notifies New Zealand that it is ready to start. 

New Zealand is the official repository country for CPTPP.  There is, sadly, still no Secretariat for the TPP.  Such a complicated agreement could have benefited greatly from an institutional body coordinating implementation, but officials did not include one. 

Domestic ratification procedures are likely to begin very quickly.  New Zealand, in fact, is already moving ahead with ratification, which is why they have released the texts today along with their domestic analysis of the impact of CPTPP. 

Other member states are also likely to want to begin as quickly as possible, since delay could be costly—the first-mover advantage goes to those who are ready at the outset.  Once firms start planning around TPP and begin moving supply chains and start using TPP companies, it can be difficult to dislodge these commitments.

What was not released today were any of the side letters signed between member parties.  Most of the original letters included the United States.  Once the US withdrew, all of these commitments—including specific obligations for Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei on labor—became dormant. 

New side letters are said to be forthcoming, including a couple for Canada.  Canada says that there is one on autos that is enforceable, but the text is not yet available. 

Once the agreement is signed in two weeks, the focus will start moving towards implementation.  While the CPTPP is a serious document, many of the provisions are vague with wording like “members shall protect personal data.”  It does not say how members shall do so.

In some countries, this is unlikely to be a challenge, since TPP members already have robust consumer protection and data privacy rules in place.  In other members, it will be much harder.  Hence, it is very important that companies work together with TPP member governments to help drive implementation of TPP in a sensible direction in the shortest possible time.

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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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