Trans-Pacific Partnership: What You Need to Know


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a controversial proposed free trade agreement. What makes it such a big deal? (Toronto Star)

Use our resources to play the “Trading Game.”

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map of countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Customize this map and experiment with layers to study the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Browse the bookmarks to see discussion ideas about time zones, land-use and development, and the economies of TPP nations.
Customize this map and experiment with layers to study the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Browse the bookmarks to see discussion ideas about time zones, land-use and development, and the economies of TPP nations.

Discussion Ideas

  • President Obama is hoping to get trade promotion authority (often called “fast track”) to better negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What is “fast track” authority?
    • Trade promotion authority is legislation that guarantees trade deals will be voted on in Congress without amendments.


  • Why does President Obama want fast-track authority?
    • President Obama and his supporters say potential trading partners may be reluctant to negotiate if they think Congress will amend or modify the deal after they have approved it.


  • Have other presidents had trade promotion authority?
    • Yes. Both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush enjoyed fast-track authority for trade deals they negotiated.


  • What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
    • According to the Toronto Star, “The purpose of traditional trade agreements was to eliminate tariffs—taxes slapped on imported products. While that is a primary goal here, the TPP covers a wide range of non-tariff concerns, including intellectual property, food safety, and labour standards.”


  • Why is the TPP so important?
    • According to the Toronto Star, “The countries involved in the TPP make up 40% of the world’s economic production. The agreement would affect dozens of industries and dozens of everyday products and services, from clothing to medicine to food to cars to books to the Internet to banking.”
    • According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying group:
      • “Over the last two decades, [the Pacific Rim’s] middle class grew by 2 billion people, and their spending power is greater than ever.”
      • “America’s share of the region’s imports [has] declined by about 43% . . . One reason U.S. companies have lost market share in the Asia-Pacific region is that many countries maintain steep barriers against U.S. exports,” which the TPP would reduce.
      • “Asia-Pacific nations are clinching trade deals among themselves that threaten to leave the United States on the outside looking in.”


  • Take a look at today’s MapMaker Interactive map. With which countries currently involved the TPP do you think the U.S. has a trade surplus? With what countries do you think the U.S. has a trade deficit? A trade surplus is the economic situation where a country’s exports exceed its imports. A trade deficit is the economic situation where a country imports more than it exports.
    • As of May 2015, the U.S. has a trade surplus with:
      • Australia (The U.S. has already exported more than $3 billion more to Australia than it has imported this year.)
      • Brunei (about $42 million this year)
      • Chile (about $1.3 billion)
      • Peru (about $917 million)
      • Singapore (about $3.2 billion)
    • The U.S. has a trade deficit with:
      • Canada (The U.S. has already imported more than $5 billion more from Canada than it exported this year.)
      • Japan (about -$17 billion)
      • Malaysia (about -$4.7 billion)
      • Mexico (about $12.8 billion)
      • New Zealand (about -$371 million)
      • Vietnam (about -$6.6 billion)



  • What groups are critical of the TPP?
    • Free speech advocates: The TPP has been negotiated largely in secret, and its terms and conditions have not been made public. Leaked chapters have shown the TPP may extend copyright protections beyond those in most member states, and reduce online privacy and due process rights.
    • Organized labor: Unions say the TPP will encourage companies to outsource U.S. jobs, increasing income inequality. Labor advocates also say that health- and safety-related material in the TPP will be voluntary and not mandatory.
    • Health-care advocates: The health-care industry is concerned that rights given to pharmaceutical companies will force countries to buy exclusive and expensive name-brand medicine instead of more inexpensive generic versions. Other critics worry about the food-safety protocols in member states not matching those in the U.S.
    • Environmentalists: All environmental protections, standards, and regulations in the TPP will be voluntary, not mandatory.
    • Financial watchdogs: Many reforms that regulate banks and multinational corporations, such as the rules on the sale of risky financial products, may be lifted.




Toronto Star: Trans-Pacific Partnership: 7 questions and answers

Nat Geo: The Trading Game: How does international trade affect a country’s economy?

Nat Geo: Trans-Pacific Partnership map

U.S. Census: Trade Highlights

U.S. Trade Representative: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (pro)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Trans-Pacific Partnership (pro)

Public Citizen: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (con)

Vox: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the only topics on which Obama and the GOP agreed last night

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