A dozen Pacific-rim nations agreed to an historic trade pact that would cut trade barriers on items ranging from cars to rice, setting up a potentially contentious ratification vote before a skeptical U.S. Congress.
After a week of final talks in Atlanta, an agreement has been reached on completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact more than five years in the making designed to boost commerce among nations that produce 40 percent of global economic output, said Akira Amari, a Japanese economics minister who is in charge of negotiations for his nation.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who sees the pact as a key element in his “pivot to Asia” foreign policy, made the accord a top priority of his remaining years in office. China was left out of the agreement, which supporters promoted as a counterweight to its growing influence.
If implemented, it would be the largest trade deal the U.S. has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994. The three signatories to that agreement, the U.S., Canada and Mexico, are included in this one, as is Japan.
The agreement will provide duty-free trade on most goods, and reduced tariffs on others. It will also provide mutual recognition of many regulations, including an exclusivity period for biologic drugs, which are derived from living organisms, and patent protection for pharmaceuticals. That was one of the final topics that was settled in marathon talks, as developing nations sought to have quicker access to generic medications.