The long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership has been signed by leaders of the twelve involved nations on February 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Considered one of the most ambitious free trade agreements in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is meant to foster trade and economic ties between the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Talks of the agreement began in 2005 between Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, and Singapore. Combined, the participating countries host populations of about 800 million people and are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the world’s trade.
According to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the goals of the TPP are:
- to lower trade tariffs on exports, such as agricultural products, industrial goods, textiles, clothing, and specified services;
- to spark competition in international job markets;
- and have all participating countries abide by international labor laws, such as minimum wage.
The agreement is also meant to lower global roaming charges and increase competition among telecommunication companies worldwide. In the last five years, the number of internet users has increased from 2 to 3 billion and hasn’t stopped growing. This increase is seen as economic potential, especially for small- and medium-size business enterprises. The Obama Administration is negotiating to unlock commerce, keep the internet free and open, to allow for more competitive access for telecommunication suppliers. The USTR believes the TPP includes the most comprehensive set of rules ever negotiated about digital trade and the promotion of internet-based commerce.
Accounting for nearly two-thirds of the net new US private sector jobs, the 28 million small- and medium-sized businesses should benefit from the international trade agreement. Electronic commerce markets are hoped to expand, and allow more small businesses to export goods internationally with lower tariffs, streamlined customs procedures, and more efficient regulatory regimes.
As with many Free Trade Agreements, some opposition exists. Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America, stated that he thought we would lose thousands of US jobs to other countries in the Partnership, due to their lower standards for labor. If corporations can pay workers less in other countries, such as Vietnam–which has an average monthly pay equivalent to about $150–then they will send their work overseas. The Labor Advisory Commission on the TPP released an impact report stating that the TPP may speed the off-shoring of call center jobs to other countries in negotiations like Mexico and the Philippines.
Call Center positions make up about four percent of US employment, according to the report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 200,000 call center jobs were lost to offshoring between 2006-2012. However, the call center industry is booming in other and prospective TPP nations.
Currently, the Philippines have about 600,000 call center jobs supporting the US market. Instead of combating this trend, the Labor Advisory Commission believes that the signing of the TPP will only exacerbate it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that, instead of opening international e-commerce markets, the TPP will stifle innovation for businesses international by creating strict trade rules. The EFF also worries that the TPP was created for the pure benefit of large corporations, allowing them to sue countries whose laws promote the public interest, instead of international trade.
Many of the TPP negotiations have been held in a veil of secrecy, and the exact text of the agreement–the who and what it pertains to–is a mystery to many businesses and organizations that will be directly affected by the Partnership. Until the US Congress starts to discuss terms of implementation, we may not know what the trade agreement will hold for our market’s future.
Each country will begin their individual ratification and implementation processes. There are hopes that Congress will pass the implementing legislation before the presidential election as such a large agreement would take longer to install during a lame duck session. Because of the potential impact on US job loss to other countries in the partnership, passing this trade legislation may prove difficult for the White House.
This article was written by AnswerNet’s contributing writer, Chelsea Ardle. Chelsea is the Assistant Editor for Vagabond City literary magazine, an online publication that publishes poetry and nonfiction from marginal writers. She received her MFA in creative writing from Chatham University in 2014.