Historic Pacific trade deal faces skeptics in Congress

Mon Oct 5, 2015 7:09pm EDT
 
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By Krista Hughes and Kevin Krolicki

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Twelve Pacific Rim countries on Monday reached the most ambitious trade pact in a generation, aiming to liberalize commerce in 40 percent of the world's economy in a deal that faces skepticism from U.S. lawmakers.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact struck in Atlanta after marathon talks could reshape industries, change the cost of products from cheese to cancer treatments and have repercussions for drug companies and automakers.

Tired negotiators worked round the clock over the weekend to settle tough issues such as monopoly rights for new biotech drugs. New Zealand's demand for greater access for its dairy exports was only settled at 5 a.m. EDT on Monday.

If approved, the TPP pact would cut trade barriers and set common standards for a region stretching from Vietnam to Canada. It would also furnish a legacy-shaping victory for U.S. President Barack Obama, who will further promote the agreement on Tuesday in remarks to business leaders in Washington.

The Obama administration hopes the pact will help the United States increase its influence in East Asia and help counter the rise of China, which is not one of the TPP nations.

Lawmakers in the United States and other TPP countries must approve the deal. Five years in the making, it would reduce or eliminate tariffs on almost 18,000 categories of goods.

Initial reaction from U.S. Congress members, including Democrats and Republicans, ranged from cautious to skeptical.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, warned the pact would cost jobs and hurt consumers. "In the Senate, I will do all that I can to defeat the TPP agreement," he tweeted.   Continued...

 
Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia October 1, 2015.  REUTERS/USTR Press Office/Handout