Just when supporters of human rights thought it was all over, reports are surfacing that the TPP fight might rise from the grave by the end of the year.
Talks are ramping up over the potential resurrection of the notorious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For several years, human rights advocates and organizations joined a broad coalition to stop the TPP from becoming law. The agreement would crack down on human and digital rights and tilt the balance of power away from government and into the hands of multi-national corporations.
Back in January, Trump killed the TPP by signing an executive order to pull the US out of the agreement. Organizations that fight for human, consumer, and digital rights along with environmental and other advocacy groups hailed this as a major victory for the people. On both sides of the TPP debate, many called the agreement dead.
Just when everyone had all but moved on, it seems that there are quiet efforts to try and resurrect the agreement despite the obstacles. While efforts stayed in the realms of corporate friendly rags and columns, talk started turning into action. Last week, New Zealand, seemingly out of the blue, ratified the agreement. At the time, the move was very puzzling. Why now? Does New Zealand know something others don’t?
In the coming days, the reasons for the move became more clear. It seems that New Zealand officials are gearing up to meat Japanese officials in an up and coming trip. Part of the discussion is going to involve methods of resurrecting the TPP. While the motivation became more clear, a lot of questions remained. How is the TPP going to be resurrected post-American involvement? For us, there are three possibilities:
1. The 11 remaining countries will renegotiate the TPP and remove the GDP requirements currently blocking the agreement.
2. Some of the remaining countries will create a carbon copy of the TPP and start from scratch.
3. Hope Trump either changes his mind on the TPP or hope he gets ousted from the presidency and get whoever replaces him to come back to the TPP.
These three possibilities are in order of likelihood in our view. Now, a report is surfacing that seemingly suggests that negotiators and officials are leaning towards the first option. In a report in the Asian Review, Japan is apparently pushing for a so-called TPP 11. The number is in reference to the remaining 11 countries still in the agreement. Not only are they pushing for this, but they are hoping that talks will begin by the end of the year. So, there is already a projected time table as well. From the report:
Japan on May 21 will call on the 10 other remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to come to a general agreement by the end of the year on implementing an accord without the U.S. It will make the push during a meeting in Vietnam.
Japan will send Nobuteru Ishihara, minister of economic and fiscal policy, to the ministerial meeting in Vietnam. Japan wants negotiators from the 10 other remaining members to also meet in November on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which will also be held in Vietnam, and to all but wrap up the accord then.
Japan is making unofficial arrangements with the other countries to include the envisaged time frame in a joint statement to be issued next week.
The 10 other members have so far agreed to a joint statement that would say they will work to implement the TPP as soon as possible. But Japan wants to add language to specify that the members will end working-level talks by the APEC summit so that they can reach a general agreement by year-end.
The thing to keep in the back of your mind is the fact that “trade” agreements such as the TPP have a long history of being delayed – often for years. Negotiators have told the public that there is a deadline for the completion of an agreement only to blow far past it with no agreement in sight. So, being skeptical about deadlines – especially as tight as that – is not an unreasonable thing to do for the average observer. Still, this highlights that there is movement on the file. This is also something that the overwhelming opposition to this agreement needs to take note. Though the current battle against the TPP may b over, the war hasn’t completely died out yet.