SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Early industry reaction to a long-sought trade agreement reached between 12 Pacific Rim countries on Monday amounted to faint praise that it could have been worse and umbrage that the United States appeared to be the biggest winner.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) aims to liberalize commerce across nations accounting for 40 percent of the world’s economy but still needs ratification by each country.
Initial ambitions for the deal, covering products and services from kiwifruit to semiconductors, were clipped back in many areas to find agreement. There was also concern that public summaries did not disclose the detail where the devils might lurk - making it hard to quickly pick winners and losers.
U.S. companies including Citibank Inc (C.N), Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) and Gap Inc (GPS.N) cheered the conclusion of a deal which is expected to bring the biggest comparative benefits Vietnam, where shares in seafood and textile companies rose after the news was announced.
New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd (FCG.NZ), the world’s biggest dairy exporter, said “entrenched” U.S. protectionism meant the deal fell far short of its original ambition to eliminate all tariffs, but was still “small but significant” step forward.
The politically influential Dairy Farmers of Canada highlighted financial losses, albeit mitigated by a “fair compensation package,” after Canada agreed to open 3.3 percent of its dairy market to imports.
Beef, sugar, rice, seafood and horticulture companies in Australia and New Zealand welcomed the increased access to Japanese markets thanks to tariff reductions under the deal.
“We should focus on the gains made in this agreement for Australian sugar, and not the success of the powerful U.S. sugar lobby in maintaining their protectionist stance against bringing sugar into their deficit market,” said Dominic Nolan, chief executive officer of the Australian Sugar Milling Council.
Canberra highlighted benefits for telecommunications companies, such as Telstra Corporation Ltd (TLS.AX), from the removal of foreign equity limits in Vietnam and Malaysia.
The deal also has implications for non-TPP members. In India, there was concern that exports to the United States would suffer from competition in sectors like textile and leather, said Abhijit Das, head of the Centre for WTO Studies, a think-tank run by India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The United States agreed to cut tariffs on Japanese vehicles over 25 to 30 years but also won better access for U.S. carmakers to the relatively closed Japanese market.
Still, Ford Motor Co (F.N) recommended lawmakers vote against the deal as it does not include sanctions against countries found to be manipulating their currencies.
Among those expected to welcome the deal are U.S.-based global e-commerce companies like Google Inc (GOOGL.O) and Uber [UBER.UL], which will have restrictions removed on sales into foreign markets, including existing requirements that they establish local infrastructures.
Australian Retailers Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said it was too early to say how those measures would affect local retailers but warned there was a risk of harm “unless barriers are also lifted for Australian retailers going overseas”.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was disappointed that U.S. negotiators did not secure a minimum 12 years protection for new biologic drugs. But other companies were grudging in their welcome.
Osamu Nagayama, chairman and chief executive officer of Japan’s Chugai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd (4519.T), which sells such drugs in the United States through Switzerland’s Roche ROG.VX, was grateful that the yardstick did not drop below eight years, Japan’s current monopoly period.
“That said, given the current R&D environment, shortening the data protection period would be challenging for the overall pharmaceutical industry,” he added.
European business organizations said the agreement could spur flagging talks between the 28-member bloc and Japan.
Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Manoj Kumar in New Delhi, Ayai Tomisawa and Ritsuko Shimizu in Tokyo; Editing by Will Waterman, Ruth Pitchford and Lisa Shumaker