The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Great Divider?

The China’s absence from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is seen by the critics as potentially costly to all. Yet with United States and its allies seemingly set on promoting the TPP, will Asia be divided into competing blocs rather than brought together by the biggest attempt at regional free trade? Launched in 2005 by Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and later Brunei, TPP now comprises a total of 11 negotiating partners including the US and Australia. Canada and Mexico joined talks this year, while South Korea and Japan have expressed interest in participating, along with Taiwan and Philippines. Next year is seen as “pivotal year” for concluding negotiations which commenced in March 2010, with the next round scheduled for next month in New Zealand. Meanwhile, “ASEAN plus six” negotiations on free trade are set to continue this month, involving the 10 members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations along Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea. U.S. participation in the TPP has been considered a means of ensuring continued involvement of world’s biggest economy in the region, where progress on other multilateral free trade agreements has been mixed. However, Washington’s push for strong standards on intellectual property, labor and environment along with regulations on state-owned enterprises to ensure a high-standard pact are seen making it difficult for emerging economies to join, along with excluding region’s strongest economy, China. Australian National University’s Shiro Armstrong has argued that China is crucial to the TPP, based on the need to encourage Middle Kingdom’s acceptance of the international rules of trading game. “China needs to help set the rules and agree to them so that it has buy-in, not have those rules created around it,” he argued in the East Asia Forum. “The biggest risk of the TPP is political: that it might divide the region strategically between its members and the rest, with China being on the outside”, urging an agreement with “open accession terms allow China to meet its own interests” rather than having to accept U.S. terms. Without a transparent and established process for membership, Armstrong warns the TPP could become simply a U.S.-led bloc in which its trade liberalization targets are unlikely to be reached. In an email interview with The Diplomat, Armstrong said: “The big challenge and test for the TPP is whether China can join. As it stands it is looking very unlikely with the hurdle set too high”. “Indonesia is the other big test for TPP, if it is to be a trade agreement brings the region together as opposed to an agreement excludes large developing countries”. “Many of the 21st century economic integration issues are currently on negotiating table could be very difficult for developing countries to sign up to and some look quite punitive for them”. “South Korea faces a different set of issues with a political backlash against FTAs after KORUS [Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement]. If that difficulty can be overcome, they won’t have too much trouble joining because of KORUS” (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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