Nations React to Pacific Trade Agreements

06 October, 2015

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership that 11 Asia-Pacific nations agreed to with the United States?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, sets rules or standards for trade between member nations. It aims to end more than 18,000 tariffs.

It also seeks to open the Internet among member nations, even in countries like Vietnam, which have tight online controls. The agreement is considered an important way for the United States to rebalance its economic presence among trading partners in Asia.

Supporters say the U.S.-led agreement would liberalize trade for 40 percent of the world economy. They say it is needed to compete with China's growing economic power in Asia and beyond.

The 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

But supporters add they do not oppose China joining the group at some time. They say the agreement would require fairer trade standards of Asia's largest economy.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the agreement. He suggested China should seek to join the group.

He said, "It would contribute largely to our nation's security and Asia-Pacific regional stability, and it would have significant strategic meaning if China joined the system in the future."

Other nations are considering joining the huge trade bloc. South Korea has developed many bilateral trade deals around the world. It called the agreement, "The largest economic framework of the Asia-Pacific region." South Korea's Vice Prime Minister said his country is may take part in the TPP.

Thailand and the Philippines also are considering to join.

Members seek to lift industries at home

Koichi Nakano is a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. The professor says the agreement has no clear winners or losers.

"It depends on your economic position within those countries whether it is a good deal or not."

In Japan, the auto industry hopes the agreement will open new markets for car parts that are used to make vehicles for export.

Manufacturers in countries with low wages such as Vietnam will gain increased access to the U.S. and Japanese markets. However, they also will be required to observe higher labor and environmental standards.

Some have pointed out that the TPP likely will result in higher prices for products like drugs. It lets companies that develop new medicines have rights to produce them for eight years before other companies can make legal copies of them.

But opponents of the agreement say it goes too far in helping business interests rather than workers' rights. They point to the TPP investor-state dispute settlement system. Critics say it lets foreign investors take legal action against national governments over laws they disagree with.

Others, like professor Nakano, say worker's rights will not be protected as strongly as corporate interests.

In the U.S. Congress, Republican Senator John McCain voice strong support for measure. But others, like Republican Senator Susan Collins said they needed more time to study the agreement.

Earlier this year, the Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority for the president. The measure means lawmakers only can vote for or against a trade agreement without adding amendments to it.

The 12 member nations still have to approve the Trans-Pacific trade agreement. Western Pacific members include Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. Members in North and South America include Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the U.S.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Brian Padden reported this story for VOA. It includes materials from Bill Ide and Joyce Huang. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

liberalize v. to make something less strict or more liberal

tariffs n. taxes on imported goods

access n. a way of getting near, at or to something or someone

bilateral adj. involving two groups or countries

corporate adj. involving or associated with a corporation