Trade Liberalisation and International Co-operation

Trade Liberalisation and International Co-operation

A Legal Analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Edited by Tania Voon

This book provides a detailed analysis of major legal and public policy issues arising from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – a treaty that will dramatically change the landscape of international trade, with effects that will be felt on a global scale.

Chapter 6: Agriculture and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations

Deborah Elms

Subjects: law - academic, competition and antitrust law, international economic law, trade law, law and economics, public international law

Extract

One of the more innovative aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations has been an emphasis on granting full market access to member countries with ëno exceptionsí. This statement has been made repeatedly from the earliest days of the negotiations in March 2010 and reiterated often throughout the talks. Even if ñ in the end ñ there are modest levels of protection remaining in a very limited number of agricultural sectors, the promises to open the market fully remain striking. A willingness to open markets with no exceptions means putting the most sensitive areas up for discussion. For nearly all countries, this means agricultural products. For a variety of reasons, including history, culture, and politics, agriculture usually holds special significance to states. As this chapter highlights, unlike industrial goods, neither repeated commitments in multilateral fora like those created by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) or the World Trade Organization (WTO) nor promises made in regional or bilateral preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have resulted in similar low levels of protection for agricultural products. Yet officials have pledged in the TPP to put these highly sensitive areas up for liberalisation to the other partners. Why are officials so prepared to take on this task in the TPP when they have been unwilling to do so in other venues? In part it was because of careful calculations about the economic benefits of the TPP. At the time that negotiations got under way in March 2010, the TPP membership included eight countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

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