The 13th negotiating round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will take place in San Diego, California from July 2-10 but Mexico and Canada will not be participating as they wait for the 90-day congressional advisory time period to expire.  Congress can advise the president about expanding the membership of TPP but does not get to vote on the matter.

The White House has provided Congress with a 90-day window to review and comment on the administration’s invitation for Mexico and Canada to join the TPP.  Hearings in both the House and Senate have been held on the matter and more hearings may be scheduled.  Under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expired in mid-2007, a 90-day transition time period was a part of the process.  Congress has not acted to renew TPA that will be necessary to achieve congressional passage of any final TPP agreement.

The nine countries currently negotiating the TPP agreement announced at the G-20 meeting in Mexico earlier this month that they formally invited Mexico and Canada to join the talks.  The two countries had both expressed their interest in the TPP in November 2011 but a decision on whether to accept them had been delayed due to concerns that they might not be willing to put sensitive issues on the table.  Both countries reportedly have provided assurances that they are prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement that encompasses more issues and deeper commitments than free trade agreements typically do.

The addition of Canada and Mexico appears to lower the chances that participants will reach their goal of concluding a TPP agreement by the end of 2012.  Further, few of the politically sensitive issues that will have to be dealt with to secure the kind of “21st century” agreement the TPP countries say they want have yet been taken up.  Bringing two new countries into the mix will complicate matters further and thus renders the current timeline increasingly improbable, observers say.

 

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