The fourteenth round of negotiations toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement begins in September 2012. The United States is doing the right thing in pursuing deeper economic and trade integration with key Asia-Pacific partners; but the effort will only be worth it if it concludes with a gold-standard trade agreement that sets the standard for future trade deals the United States enters into.
As this report—which updates the May 2011 report, Gold Standard or WTO-Lite? Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Must Be a True 21st Century Trade Agreement—documents, a number of significant outstanding issues remain to be negotiated and successfully concluded, especially those regarding IPR protection and enforcement as well as market access rights, if the TPP is to be regarded as a true 21st century trade agreement. Moreover, the past year has seen insufficient, albeit some, progress by TPP parties in removing trade barriers. For instance, six TPP parties remain on the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Watch or Priority Watch Lists, which identify countries that provide inadequate intellectual property rights protections, signaling that significant intellectual property protection issues persist among TPP countries. Only two other TPP parties (besides the United States) have joined the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Significant barriers to foreign direct investment, especially in the telecommunications sector, remain in many TPP countries. In fact, a comparison of USTR’s 2011 and 2012 National Trade Estimate Reports on Foreign Trade Barriers—which documents countries’ significant barriers to trade, whether they are consistent or inconsistent with existing international trade rules—reveals some improvement over the past year but more so the persistence of the majority of the previously documented trade barriers among TPP partners.