The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific countries. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has described it as a “comprehensive and high standard” agreement, designed to eliminate and reduce trade barriers and to establish and extend the rules and disciplines of the trading system among the parties to the agreement (see Figure 1). If implemented, it would be the largest plurilateral FTA by value of trade, encompassing roughly 40% of world GDP, and could serve further to integrate the United States in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. As a “living agreement,” it has the potential to negotiate new rules and expand its membership. It could also mark a shift to the negotiation of “mega-regional” trade liberalization agreements in lieu of bilateral FTAs and broader multilateral trade liberalization in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The 12 countries concluded the TPP negotiations and released the text of the agreement in late 2015. Trade ministers from the TPP countries signed the final agreement text on February 4, 2016, and several countries are seeking to ratify the agreement this year. TPP draws congressional interest on a number of fronts, and Congress must approve implementing legislation for U.S. commitments under the agreement to enter into force. The TPP would be eligible to receive expedited legislative consideration under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), P.L. 114-26, unless Congress determines the Administration has failed to advance TPA negotiating objectives, or has not met various notification and consultation requirements. Furthermore, the TPP may affect a range of sectors and regions of the U.S. economy and could influence the shape and path of U.S. trade policy for the foreseeable future. It may also serve strategic goals of the United States by strengthening regional alliances and extending U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region. This report examines the key provisions of the proposed TPP, related policy and economic contexts, and issues of potential interest to Congress.