The dotted line: trade in the Pacific
In Auckland this morning, representatives of a dozen countries spanning four continents signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious free-trade agreement long in the negotiation. The 12 include America and Japan, the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies in nominal terms, and together account for about 40% of the global economy. For Barack Obama’s administration, TPP has become an important part of its “rebalance” towards Asia and the Pacific—a symbol of how America, not China, can still set the rules.
Celebrations, however, will be tempered by the difficulties ahead. The deal is opposed by both anti-globalisation campaigners and powerful lobbies. Signature is a prelude in several countries to arduous domestic ratification processes, notably in America. This week the White House urged Congress not to delay. But it already seems too late for passage before November’s presidential and congressional elections. So TPP’s fate may hinge on American voters.