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Trans-Pacific Partnership a done deal, but domestic political storms lie ahead

TWELVE countries reached agreement on the biggest regional trade accord in history, kicking off much domestic political opposition that must be overcome if the accords are even to be posted as new rules of customs sheds of participating nations.

Trans-Pacific Partnership a done deal, but domestic political storms lie ahead
06 October 2015 - 18:27
Trans-Pacific Partnership a done deal, but domestic political storms lie ahead

TWELVE countries reached agreement on the biggest regional trade accord in history, kicking off much domestic political opposition that must be overcome if the accords are even to be posted as new rules of customs sheds of participating nations.

The conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed in Atlanta, after years of negotiations was merely "an important first step," said Michael Froman, the United States trade representative, reported the New York Times.

Now the deal faces months of scrutiny in Congress, where opposition was immediate. Key members of Congress expressed ambivalence at best or outright opposition, though the agreement's 30-chapter text will not be available for a month.

The Ford Motor Company condemned it, saying it did not address currency manipulation by Japan that has the effect of lowering prices for their exports to the United States.

In Atlanta, Australia's trade minister, Andrew Robb, implied the weakness of the currency language when he labelled the side agreement a set of principles "that have been more or less agreed".

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast, who whose conservative government faces an election in two weeks with anti-trade critics on the attack, conceded there had been "very tough discussions".

But, he added, "at the end of the day, here we are as 12 TPP partners, having achieved something that at times many people didn't think was achievable".

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser, representing a country that is a major dairy exporter and would gain new access to markets in Canada, the United States and elsewhere, interjected, "Look, long after the details of this negotiation on things like tons of butter have been regarded as a footnote in history, the bigger picture of what we've achieved today will be what remains.

The ministers confirmed that one of the most challenging issues was dealing with so-called biologics, which are advanced medicines made from living organisms. 

The US sought up to 12 years' protection for drug makers to withhold data needed to produce generic "biosimilars", as an incentive for their innovations, while Australia and Peru led most other nations in fighting for no more than five years of protection.

The compromise set a mandatory minimum of five years, without setting a maximum, leaving both sides to declare victory. "We do think we have a balanced result," said a Peruvian delegate.

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