Pacific Focus

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Can the United States Lead the Way in Asia-Pacific Integration?

ABSTRACT

High stakes are involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations: the United States seems to be on the verge of redirecting Asian regionalism towards an Asia–Pacific trade grouping that proclaims will not tolerate sectoral exclusions and will tackle head on non-tariff barriers (long considered glaring deficiencies of most free trade agreements). However, U.S. domestic politics may prevent the realization of these lofty objectives. The influence of internal political constraints is evident in three areas: (i) the United States has pushed for a hybrid approach on market access negotiations that clouds the prospects of TPP adhering to the no-carve-out mantra; (ii) U.S. trade negotiators have ramped up their negotiation objectives into a so-called platinum standard that could impose heavy preconditions on accession for new members and diminish the chances of growing the TPP membership; and (iii) the protracted ratification process and lack of trade promotion authority undermines the credibility of the United States in the eyes of prospective trade partners.

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