The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be signed in New Zealand on 4th February 2016, it was announced today, after leaders from the 12 participating countries met in Manila to discuss the timeline for the comprehensive free trade agreement.
Leaders also agreed on a two-year period for each country’s parliament to approve the deal, meaning it will likely come into force in 2018.
The presidents of Chile, Peru and Mexico, who are in the Philippines for the 13th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC), joined US president Barack Obama and eight other heads of state to finalise the deal after the conclusion of five year-long negotiations in October.
The TPP, which will cover 40% of the global economy, is set to create the largest economic block in history by reducing around 18,000 customs duties between the 12 countries and establishing common rules on issues like intellectual property, labour regulations and environmental standards.
Supporters of the deal say that the new block will act as a counterweight to China’s growing dominance in the global economy.
However, NGOs and politicians across the Pacific countries have raised concerns over the secrecy in which negotiations were conducted, the deal’s environmental implications, its impact on internet freedoms and healthcare costs, and powers given to transnational corporations.
President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, which recorded US$45.8bn in trade with the countries involved in 2014, may face problems in ratifying the TPP in a congress where many opposition politicians have expressed concerns. Earlier this year Senator Francisco Chahuán publicly demanded a review of the negotiations with greater “transparency”.
Bachelet responded to criticism of the deal on Monday, saying, “We understand that we have to strengthen democracies and human rights […] but we also need to improve social policies and the economy.”
“We have very good arguments with which to explain to people why the TPP is good for us. We’ll be defending it wherever [we need to],” she concluded.
The full text of the agreement was made public on 5th November. However, Chile is Better Without the TPP, a campaign group made up of 58 social and environmental organisations, continues to condemn the lack of public participation in the negotiations, extensive concessions to the US on trade issues, and the potential loss of national sovereignty.
“The late release of these texts confirms the fears sparked by pages leaked by Wikileaks and which organisations across the world have raised. This deal is not good for citizens, even less for countries like Chile, and it is the expression of what happens when governments make deals without social nor political participation,” the group said in a statement.
Some have highlighted the unequal opportunities of countries within the agreement. Out of the 12 countries involved Peru, Mexico and Chile come 12th, 11th and 9th respectively in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, which measures the challenges and advantages affecting different countries’ ability to benefit from international trade.
The TPP includes: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, the US, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.