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Lowy Institute for International Policy | The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Overview The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious project. It is a preferential trade agreement currently under negotiation across 12 countries with a sum GDP of $28 trillion and a population of 800 million. It will address not only trade but intellectual property, legal and institutional issues, and environmental issues. It is difficult to know what specific issues will be agreed because the progress of the negotiations is not clear. Some information has been leaked but the public is still largely in the dark. The TPP has been billed as a ‘21st century trade agreement’ which covers a much broader scope than just trade. This new approach is not without controversy. There are fears that intellectual property provisions will prove costly for emerging economies, and even developed economies like Australia. Investor-state resolution procedures buttress foreign investors’ ability to legally challenge sovereign governments and are especially contentious. Australia has tended to shun these provisions in previous free trade agreements, but now appears to be open to their inclusion. The TPP is part of a wider pattern of trade moving away from multilateralism. In the past, trade policy was liberalised through the multilateral settings of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and then the World Trade Organization. In the last twenty years, these multilateral efforts have yielded frustrating results and many countries have turned to bilateral and regional trade agreements. The TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between European states and the US are symptomatic of this shift. However, preferential agreements can lead to trade diversion rather than trade creation so there is disagreement among economists as to whether this change is positive on the whole. In the International Economy Program, we continue to focus on developments in the TPP. Some examples of our work include: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership be a good deal for Australia?  Different perspectives on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The meeting of economics and geopolitics in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Will Congress fast-track Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership?  What the Lowy Institute does The Lowy Institute has approached current and future trends in the global trading system from several angles. In addition to the work on trade undertaken by the International Economy Program, the G20 Studies Centre has produced several outlooks and perspectives on the role of trade within global economic governance generally, and within the G20 process specifically. International trade and governance of the global trading system will continue to be an ongoing focus for the International Economy Program and the G20 Studies Centre.

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