[JURIST] Twelve countries across the Pacific-Rim on Thursday signed [joint statement] the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) [text] in New Zealand amid waves of protest. The twelve nations, which together make-up roughly 40% of the world's GDP [BBC report], include the Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States of America, and Vietnam. One of the largest trade agreements in history, the TPP is purportedly aimed increasing the flow of trade between the nations in a manner beneficial for workers and large corporations. Members of the labor industry dispute the claimed benefits, arguing that job losses [International Business Times report] will result from the agreement as corporations will begin to send jobs to countries with less restrictive labor laws and lower costs. Those in support of the agreement, such as Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand and US President Barack Obama [official profiles] argue that the agreement will be beneficial for all and give signatory nations a competitive edge both in the Asian-Pacific region and around the world. While the agreement has been signed by representatives, the twelve nations have 2 years to ratify or reject the agreement as appropriate under domestic law.
The development of the TPP has had an impact on US trade laws in the last year, though not without controversy. Earlier this week, UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas [official profile] on Tuesday urged [JURIST report] governments in the Pacific Rim not to sign [press release] the TPP without first "reaffirming ... human rights treaty obligations and their recent pledges to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals." In June the US House of Representatives voted [JURIST report] 286-138 to approve a trade law that provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs to international trade and renews Obama's authority to negotiate trade deals on behalf of the country. The Trade Preference Extension Act included measures Obama had long pushed for and was seen as clearing the way for him to complete negotiations on the TPP. Also in June, South Korea and China signed [JURIST report] a bilateral free trade agreement that will eliminate most tariffs between the two countries, which are not party to the TPP, over the next two decades after about three years of negotiations. In July 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] that the European Commission was not being sufficiently transparent regarding negotiations with the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which, like the TPP, aims to remove trade barriers between the EU and US.