Vinod K. Aggarwal
AsiaPacific Issues, 2016
The rise of a multiplicity of diverse bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) has led countries to pursue mega-FTAs to manage the growing complexity of global trade arrangements. The US and China are promoting rival accords: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would encompass 800 million people and almost 40 percent of global GDP, is a centerpiece of the Obama Asia Pacific strategy. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would account for 30 percent of global GDP, with a population of over three billion people, creating the largest FTA in the world. TPP advocates assert that it will strengthen the US’ strategic role in the region, in part by countering China’s membership in the RCEP. These claims, made in response to growing skepticism in the United States about the value of liberalized trade, overemphasize the TPP’s strategic value. At the same time, projecting the economic impact of the TPP is thorny, given the deal’s scope and the diversity of countries involved.