Asserting national interest in trade negotiations
Though we are mere uzi or bystanders in the ongoing negotiations to forge a Trans-Pacific free-trade bloc, it is interesting, and instructive, to observe the converging and clashing national interests among the 12 countries involved. Final agreement is being difficult to reach, dashing President Obama’s timetable to seal the deal before the US presidential election campaign begins next year.
There are issues wherein one or more small economies stand pat against a big one. But the most telling disagreement is between the US and the 11 others on the issue of intellectual property protection, particularly for American pharmaceutical corporations.
Nonetheless, the negotiations produced agreements on three issues: 1) broad environmental protections for some sensitive, diverse, and threatened ecosystems; 2) labelling exports with distinct geographic indications; and 3) a code of conduct and rules against conflicts of interest for arbitrators in extrajudicial tribunals to hear complaints by corporations against government actions deemed damaging to their investments.