U.S., Pacific Rim Nations Reach Agreement On Trade Deal
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The announcement came today from a tired U.S. trade representative. There is now an agreement for a new trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries. This is the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we've heard about for years. President Obama says it will help American companies sell more abroad, and supporters say that would help boost the U.S. economy. But first, TPP needs a yes from Congress. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Officials from the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico and eight other countries met until early this morning in Atlanta in an attempt to resolve the last areas of disagreement. Several times, they scheduled press conferences only to delay them. Then, this morning, U.S. trade representative Michael Froman announced that an agreement had been breached.
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MICHAEL FROMAN: The agreement achieves the goal we set forth of an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard and balanced agreement that will benefit our nations' citizens.
ZARROLI: The deal is potentially a huge victory for President Obama who has made closer ties with Asia, a major foreign policy goal. Among other things, the agreement would act as a bulwark against China's growing influence in the region. The full text of the agreement hasn't been released yet, but the White House said it would wipe out numerous tariffs and import restrictions on autos, agricultural products, chemicals and consumer goods. The accord would establish uniform rules for intellectual property and attempt to streamline trade regulations. Andrew Robb is Australia's minister for trade and investment.
ANDREW ROBB: These sorts of things sound, you know, miniscule, but they are huge drivers of trade. The red tape is consuming so much of world activity not just in trade. It's in many other areas. This is a massive achievement in reducing that red tape.
ZARROLI: Major U.S. business groups such as the Business Roundtable were generally pleased with the agreement, though they've yet the pore through all the details. But there was opposition as well. Ford Motor Company issued a statement urging Congress to oppose the deal because it didn't address currency manipulation. Some of the countries signing the agreement, such as Vietnam, have been accused of artificially lowering their currency in an attempt to boost exports. Officials say that issue is being taken up in parallel talks. But Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, predicted that problems like these would doom the agreements chances.
LORI WALLACH: The Obama administration, in the name of getting a deal, any deal, seems to have agreed to something that probably can't pass Congress.
ZARROLI: In fact, the accord faces an uncertain future in Congress. A sizable number of Democrats say the trade pact would accelerate the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to other countries and a lower worker safety standards throughout the region. More Republicans are expected to sign on to the deal, but the upcoming presidential election could complicate the politics of the agreement. Congress is expected to vote on the deal early next year. Democratic congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
ROSA DELAURO: That's perfect timing because a presidential election year is the best opportunity to shine the light on all of the bad trade provisions in this deal.
ZARROLI: But the Trans-Pacific Partnership remains a major priority for President Obama, and over the next few months, the White House is expected to mount a big effort to get the agreement approved. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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