The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offered the United States an opportunity to expand market access for U.S. workers, businesses, and farmers; create a level playing field on labor and environmental issues; and promote U.S. standards in the Asia-Pacific. Since the United States withdrew from the TPP in 2017, our regional partners have concluded trade deals without us, and China has forcefully asserted its economic and national security interests. This has increased the urgency for the United States to step up its economic engagement in the world’s fastest-growing region.
A return to the TPP, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP), would provide an immediate boost to U.S. economic competitiveness and geopolitical influence. It would also help ensure that the United States features prominently in regional supply chain decisions. However, many concerns about the original TPP are legitimate and U.S. trade policy views have shifted since the agreement was concluded. This calls into question whether the United States could ever muster the political support necessary to join the current agreement.
In light of this dynamic, this paper attempts to shift the conversation away from a binary choice between rejoining the agreement as it exists or staying away. Rather, we focus on whether it is possible to modify the CPTPP to meet our economic interests and facilitate potential U.S. reentry. To develop our recommendations, we engaged in extensive consultations over the past year with a broad range of trade experts, domestic stakeholders, and CPTPP members. We were also inspired by the bipartisan support for the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was itself a renegotiation of a previously unpopular agreement, as well as the important work underway on the U.S.-led IndoPacific Economic Framework (IPEF).
To help start a meaningful conversation about potential CPTPP reentry, we suggest 12 areas for potential updates or improvements:
- Improve CPTPP rules of origin, especially on autos and trucks.
- Strengthen labor provisions to ensure a level playing field.
- Bolster provisions to better protect the environment.
- Modernize rules to address anticompetitive behavior from non market economies.
- Strengthen provisions to combat currency manipulation.
- Adopt a targeted approach to investor-state dispute settlement obligations..
- Apply a flexible approach to government procurement rules.
- Modernize rules to reflect advancements in digital trade and promote digital inclusiveness.
- Enhance fairness in intellectual property rights protection and enforcement.
- Embed supply chain security and resilience into the agreement as a new chapter.
- Adopt collective approaches to address economic coercion.
- Incentivize members to review and improve the agreement over time.
We believe that a revised CPTPP that includes these changes is worth considering as a means to bolster our international competitiveness, protect our economic and national security interests, promote our values and norms, and shape the rules that will govern trade and investment for years to come.
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