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Text Of Landmark Trade Deal Is Released, And The Real Debate Begins

Passersby in Washington, D.C., walk near an ad protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership in July.
Brandan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
Passersby in Washington, D.C., walk near an ad protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership in July.

The debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the free-trade pact between the United States and 11 other countries, is about to heat up.

Details of the 30-chapter agreement, which runs to hundreds of pages, were released online Thursday. Meanwhile, the White House is expected to notify Congress that President Obama intends to sign the deal, kicking off a 90-day review period, at the end of which Congress has to vote on whether to pass the deal.

The White House says the agreement known as TPP, which was reached last month, would wipe out numerous tariffs and import restrictions on autos, agricultural products, chemicals and consumer goods. It also would establish uniform rules for intellectual property and allow businesses in TPP nations to bid for more government contracts.

Signatories to the agreement include wealthy industrialized countries such as Canada, Australia and Japan, as well as low-wage countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

The U.S. Coalition for TPP, a business group, said the accord would "create a level playing field and advance American competitiveness in the 21st century":

"The TPP is the most expansive trade agreement the United States has negotiated in two decades, and was initiated to address many of the challenges and barriers unique to today's global economy. The final agreement is worthy of serious review. If it meets our high expectations, it has tremendous potential to improve America's competitiveness around the world."

Critics have maintained that the agreement would accelerate the loss of manufacturing jobs and drive down wages and worker safety standards in the U.S.

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch says an initial look at the text was not encouraging:

"From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest."

The pact includes sections about sourcing of automobile parts and data protection for biologic drugs that have already been controversial. Opponents have also bemoaned the fact that the pact does not address currency manipulation.

But critics hoping to build up opposition to the pact have been hamstrung by the fact that the agreement's text was not released until now.

The president faces an uphill climb getting the pact through Congress, where many Democrats are already voicing skepticism.

He should have an easier time with Republicans, but House Speaker Paul Ryan was noncommittal about supporting the TPP, saying he wanted to look over the details.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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