The 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wrapped up the final negotiations on the trade agreement this week in Tokyo. The TPP11 or Comprehensive and Progressive TPP (CPTPP) is set for formal signature on March 8 in Chile. Most businesses will not be prepared. Many firms expected the agreement to fade away. Hence, few have made contingency plans for implementation. Now, the clock is ticking before the agreement takes effect starting in late 2018 or early 2019. Nearly all of TPP11 begins on the very first day (entry into force or EIF), including all market opening for services, investment, most changes in customs procedures, the majority of tariff cuts and more. Most of TPP11 is identical to what was negotiated originally. The majority of the deal remains intact.
The primary difference between the original 12 party Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the new 11 party version is a set of “suspended” provisions. This is a list of 20 items that officials from the member countries have agreed to remove temporarily from the free trade agreement texts. These suspended provisions (found in Annex 2 of the CPTPP) are meant to be reinstated at some future date. In other words, these elements of the TPP may come back into the agreement as originally negotiated. Between now and then, member governments are not required to implement these rules at the domestic level. Many commentators with an unclear understanding of the TPP have assumed that these suspended provisions are a significant proportion of the document. The removal of both the United States and the 20 elements, therefore, has been said to make the TPP11 less relevant. Neither is the case. The TPP11 (or the CPTPP) is extremely important for companies and continues to set the benchmark for future trade agreements globally.
In other words, all of the existing annexes from the TPP agreement remain unchanged. All tariff cuts will take place on schedule as planned. All services open as intended. All investment is opened as indicated for TPP11 firms. All procurement access that was originally scheduled will continue. Furthermore, there are zero changes to the legal texts at all (beyond removing references to the United States) in the original chapters for 1-4 (definitions, market access for goods, rules of origin, textiles), 6-8 (trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary, technical barriers to trade), 12 (temporary movement of business persons), 14 (electronic commerce), 16-17 (competition, state owned enterprises), 19 (labor), 21-25 (cooperation and capacity building, competitiveness and business facilitation, development, SMEs, regulatory coherence), 28 (dispute settlement).