TPP deal reached; Congress a question mark

The United States and 11 of its trading partners reached an historic accord Monday that will lift 18,000 tariffs on U.S. exports, presenting a potential boom for businesses of all sizes.

The so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, the most-sweeping trade deal since 1993’s NAFTA accord, is with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. About 45 percent of U.S. exports already go to those countries, suggesting the deal could be implemented swiftly.

If it can get through Congress.

“If we can get this agreement to my desk, then we can help our businesses sell more Made in America goods and services around the world, and we can help more American workers compete and win,” President Barack Obama said following word that an accord had been reached.

No full-text version of the agreement is available yet, but the U.S. Trade Representative released a summary of its 30 chapters.

Groups representing exporters, such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable, praised U.S. officials for completing negotiations on the agreement. But the deal was panned by the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents small domestic manufacturers who contend the agreement doesn’t enforce currency manipulation that would hurt U.S. exporters.

The pact does include a provision that member nations develop websites targeting small- and medium-size businesses to explain the agreement and how smaller companies can take advantage of it. An international committee is tasked with reviewing how well the agreement serves small businesses and considering ways to improve it.

Only 5 percent of U.S. small businesses are exporters, suggesting there is “huge potential for small businesses to expand their businesses by exporting,” the White House said.

The deal also has protections for U.S. technology and telecommunications companies, but it fell short on safeguarding American medicine formulas for a hoped-for 12 years – it calls for five to eight years instead – and it blocks the U.S. tobacco industry from mounting legal challenges to restrictions on tobacco use in other countries.