A China-backed treaty has become a front runner for setting new trade standards in the Asia-Pacific region after US President-elect Donald Trump confirmed he would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed by 12 countries including the United States in February but has not yet been ratified.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves 16 nations in the Asia-Pacific area, is seen as an alternative to the TPP for lowering tariffs and facilitating growth in its members. China, which was excluded from the TPP, is leading the RCEP.
However, the RCEP lacks some of the “lofty goals” set for the TPP, including worker protection and targeting corruption.
The following are provisions of the TPP that are not currently included in the RCEP:
TPP countries are required to ensure a list of labour rights recognised by the International Labour Organisation.
These include working to protect collective bargaining, eliminating forced labour and abolishing child labour and employment discrimination.
The signatories are also required to introduce laws governing minimum wages, hours of work and occupational safety and health.
The TPP requires its member countries to enforce laws to protect endangered species.
The members commit to combat illegal trade in wildlife, plants and fish as well as sharing information with other member states to investigate wildlife trafficking.
Member countries will also promote the long-term conservation of species at risk, such as sharks, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.
Under the TPP, governments must encourage companies to adopt corporate social responsibility policies that benefit the environment.
The member states would also eliminate tariffs on environmental goods and facilitate trade in environmental services.
State-owned companies in TPP states must make purchases and sales on the basis of commercial considerations.
TPP governments also agree to ensure that their SOEs do not discriminate against the enterprises, goods or services of other countries.
Governments are forbidden from using their regulatory authorities to provide preferential treatment to their SOEs.
The TPP requires that countries do not hurt the interests of other member states when they provide non-commercial assistance, such as loans or equity capital, to their SOEs.
Free information flow
The TPP’s e-commerce section includes assurances that companies and consumers can access and move data freely, in order to support the digital economy.
The US government said the measures would help prevent unreasonable restrictions, such as the arbitrary blocking of websites.
The trade agreement also guarantees that companies would not be required to build local data centres in every market they seek to serve.
TPP members must treat digital content from other TPP members the same way as they treat their own digital content.
TPP nations are required to classify acts of bribery and corruption as criminal offences.
People who bribe officials or public servants who solicit bribes in trade-related matters must be punished, under the terms of the deal.
The member states must work to decrease conflicts of interest between the government and private companies.
The TPP also attempts to increase transparency, requiring countries to make their trade laws and regulations available to others.
Member states must seek comments from other TPP members before adopting new trade regulations.