The Trans-Pacific Partnership, though spurned by the biggest of its 12 intended members, never went away. Prospects for the trade pact looked bleak when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. last year. But leaders including Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull worked through a series of disputes to forge an agreement to keep the framework alive. The TPP (with a new tongue-twister of a name) will prove an economic and political force -- and a rival to a proposed new trade agreement including China -- with the U.S. or without. And now it looks like the U.S. might return to the fold.
It’s much like the original agreement in 2015, expanding free-trade rules beyond agriculture and services, embracing the digital economy and adopting stronger protections for intellectual property. Unlike a traditional trade deal that merely covers the exchange of goods and services, there are broader requirements in areas such as labor issues, the environment and government procurement. The wording agreed to in Tokyo in January was essentially the same as before, but with some of the nitty-gritty suspended; for example, investors’ ability to sue governments will be cut back and copyright protection will not need to be extended as previously planned.