The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement involving twelve countries: the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Brunei. It is currently stalled, on the American side, in Congress.

The agreement aims to strengthen economic ties between member nations, cutting many (although not nearly all) tariffs and increasing trade. There is hope that member nations will build on this by creating policies to even further support increased trade and streamline regulations. The agreement is moving towards creating a more unified market, and has been compared, very roughly, to the EU.

For example, one major provision of the agreement is the reduction of tariffs on agricultural products and industrial goods. Once the deal is ratified, US tariffs on manufactured goods and most farm products will be dropped, both increasing their demand on the world market (yay!), and costing the US government $15 billion over ten years in decreased income (boo!).

Unfortunately, the trade agreement may not survive American politics. Obama and his administration held most of the preliminary talks in secret, and it is now coming to the forefront as he is about to leave office; this is an excellent chance for republicans in Congress to signal that they are not on board with evil, secretive democratic policies.

Moreover, the current election has been extremely pro-protectionism, with both sides claiming that the best way to support American jobs is to discourage trade with the rest of the world (this is a revealed truth, and needs no foundation in economic reality). It is true that the TPP will surely cost many Americans their jobs as markets change, but it is also true that the absolute number of American jobs is much more likely to increase than decrease.

While on the economic side the TPP is mostly a good thing, from the privacy side it may not be. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been running an informational campaign to raise awareness of some negative provisions, including some that may affect your rights to due process and your privacy rights, along with strengthening of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Unfortunately, the value of the TPP is going to be largely not in its initial passage (if it ever does), but in how well the member states can tweak it to address problems as they arise. Given its history of secretive deals and political controversy it is not likely to be popular, meaning that political viewpoints will easily overshadow true needs. Hopefully our greed will eventually overcome our egos, and we may yet all profit from this.

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