by David Fidler
Release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) has launched the “tale of two treaties” saga so familiar when new trade and investment agreements appear—it is the best of treaties, it is the worst of treaties. Praise for and criticism of the TPP’s chapter on e-commerce form part of this saga, and the gap in rhetoric calls for scrutiny of the legal text in light of the chapter’s strategic goals and the political challenges it faces.
The TPP’s strategic objectives include advancing trade and investment liberalization and counterbalancing China’s growing influence. The e-commerce chapter supports these objectives. With WTO negotiations stalled, the TPP provides a way to catalyze liberalization among countries representing forty percent of the global economy, which creates e-commerce opportunities, with expanding digital commerce generating new trade and investment possibilities. The chapter facilitates this dynamic because it will apply on an unprecedented geographic and economic scale. Strategic concerns with China include competition on global e-commerce. The e-commerce chapter is designed to preserve an open, global Internet and can be a model for future agreements.