On Monday, after an intense few days of negotiations, government officials from the United States and 11 other countries from the Pacific region announced the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal involving countries making up almost 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Specific details of the agreement are still lacking at this point (it may be a month before the full text is released), but by any measure, this deal will be one of the largest in history. However, the work is not done yet.

The next step will be an intense political debate here in the U.S. as well as the other TPP countries. In preparation, it is useful to understand what’s in the TPP to sort out the wide-ranging impact it will have. Trade agreements are not just about lower tariffs — they are broad exercises in global governance.
The core feature of trade liberalization is still present, of course. In this regard, the key questions for evaluating the deal are, how much liberalization will occur through the TPP, and how quickly? On various sensitive products, the early reports are underwhelming. We have heard that U.S. tariffs on cars and trucks will be reduced slowly (30 years for trucks); and U.S. restrictions on sugar will fall only slightly. Japan will liberalize agricultural markets only a little, and Canada will do the same on dairy imports. For those who favor trade liberalization, the specific details of “market access” provided for these and other products will matter a lot when assessing the merits of the deal.