Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP / CPTPP)

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The negotiations on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Agreement were launched in 2008. Their objective was to reach a trade agreement between the following Pacific Basin countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.

The economic performance of the negotiating countries represents 40% of global GDP and a third of world trade. China and India, two of the major economic powers in Asia, are not taking part in the negotiations.


The agreement was signed in February 2016. Following the withdrawal of the United States, the agreement is now facing a very uncertain future. In March 2018, the remaining 11 states finally signed the now re-named and less ambitious Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Before it can enter into force, it must be ratified by the countries’ respective national parliaments.

The negotiations were very long and drawn out, due to divergent attitudes on the issues surrounding agriculture, intellectual property rights, services and the protection of investments. Civil society also showed increasingly strong opposition to this agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors, fearing that it would be solely based on the interests of multinational corporations. This fear was indeed justified when the texts became public.

The key preoccupations are based on strengthened protection of intellectual property rights and patents. This means that millions of people are not able to access affordable generic medication; it also increases farmers’ dependence on industrial seeds sold by the multinational corporations.

The agreement does however include progressive measures in the field of labour law and human rights, as well as the fight against corruption and environmental protection.

With the withdrawal of the United States, another Asia-Pacific regional alliance has come to the forefront: the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). It brings together the countries of the Southeast Asia known as ASEAN. This group includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. These countries represent approximately 40% of global trade.

China could be the biggest winner of the failure of TPP, as it was excluded from the agreement, and this would now allow it to strengthen both its economic and political influence in the Asia-Pacific region, thanks to the RCEP. And whereas Japan and South Korea both advocate for strengthening patents and the protection of intellectual property rights in order to stimulate their industrial sector, India is opposed to these measures on the basis that the Indian people are dependent on affordable medication and free access to seeds. The ongoing negotiations are correspondingly difficult.