Inside the Historic Free-Trade Pact We Just Agreed To
Trans-Pacific Partnership terms hashed out after years of negotiations
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2015 8:17 AM CDT
Trade ministers from 12 Pacific Rim nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement pose for a group photo at a meeting in Lahaina, Hawaii on Thursday, July 30, 2015.   (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

(Newser) – The United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and eight more Pacific Rim countries on Monday came to an agreement on a free-trade pact that would kill upward of 18,000 tariffs currently in place on US exports ranging from cars to avocados, in a deal the Washington Post hails as the largest "in a generation." The terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership were hashed out over nine days in Atlanta, with an intended Sunday announcement falling through amid continuing debate. What you need to know:

  • What makes the deal so large? The counties involved (also Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) represent about 40% of the world's GDP.
  • How long has the deal been in the works? Negotiations have occurred over almost eight years, per the New York Times, with the Post terming five of those years as seeing "arduous" debates. President Obama has been pushing the deal as a way to keep China from having an overbearing influence on Pacific trade.
  • What were some of the final sticking points? Drugs and dairy. US producers of biologic drugs (that is, those made from living organisms) currently have 12 years to keep their data secret so as to ward off cheaper rivals. Australia was the loudest opponent; the compromise provides between five and eight years of data protection. On the dairy front, America will be able to export more dairy to Canada and Japan; we'll also import more such products from New Zealand.

  • So is it a go? Not yet. Congress now has 90 days to review the agreement, whose full text won't be available for as long as a month. That puts the up-or-down vote in early 2016 (February at the earliest, per Politico.) The Wall Street Journal reports that support among Democrats is tepid; as for Republicans, it paints their support as "unpredictable" as they eye the 2016 election. Labor unions, environmentalists, and liberal activists see it as a bad deal for American workers and the planet. Candidates ranging from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders aren't fans, either.
  • What would it mean for Obama? "Legacy-making" and "legacy-defining" are the phrases being trotted out by the media, with the Times summing it up as a potential "capstone for his foreign policy 'pivot' toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa."