What's the TPP, again?

Trade representatives
Trade representatives attend at a news conference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pan-Pacific trade agreement by trade ministers from 12 nations.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images 2014

President Donald Trump followed through on one of his campaign promises Monday by signing an executive memorandum withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The wide-ranging trade agreement had been a point of contention during the 2016 election, drawing criticism from both the left and the right.

Twelve Pacific Rim countries — including Canada, the United States and Mexico — have been negotiating the deal for nearly a decade. With Trump's announcement Monday, where does it stand?

What is the TPP?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a 12-nation trade agreement that would set rules on imports and exports — and includes regulations governing labor, environmental and intellectual property.

President Trump's actions Monday withdraw the United States from the trade partnership. The deal was the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's attempt to serve as a check on China's influence in Asia. The Obama administration labored for years to finalize the agreement, but, as of Monday, the TPP had yet to receive congressional approval and faced significant opposition in the House and Senate.

Trump's move was largely symbolic, as it signaled an end to the Obama White House's efforts to lobby Congress to support the agreement. The new president campaigned as a fierce opponent of multilateral trade agreements, and of this one in particular.

What would the TPP do?

Many of the nations involved in the agreement — the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — are experiencing rapid population and economic growth. Supporters of the partnership say the TPP would give U.S. companies better access to partner markets by removing taxes and other regulations that they consider to be barriers to trade. The Obama administration said the deal would have slashed 18,000 taxes that other countries impose on American goods and services.

The treaty includes new ground rules enforcing intellectual property and trade secret protections among TPP partners. Those elements of the deal were important additions for the medical device industry and high-tech companies. But organizations like the Electronic Frontiers Foundation have opposed the agreement, saying its rules governing technology would only protect the corporate bottom line, and not the rights of individuals.

The agreement set strict standards for environmental practices and labor rules, which were negotiated, in part, to enforce standards in the region that would be more stringent than those already set by China.

While the TPP doesn't include China, one of the United States' largest trading partners, it was expected to have an effect on that trading relationship. U.S. trade with China is currently governed by of the World Trade Organization.

What's the status of the agreement?

After years of negotiation, the TPP moved closer to becoming reality when representatives of the 12 nations signed the agreement in early 2016.

Each signatory then took the treaty home for final ratification — in the U.S., that ratification must come from Congress.

The stakes for U.S. participation in the deal were high: According to the terms of the TPP, the deal would only go into effect if all 12 signatories ratify it — or if at least 6 signatories ratify it in the two years after the initial signing. But there's an asterisk to the latter: Those six or more signatories must represent a combined gross domestic product of 85 percent of the combined GDP of the 12 signatories. That means, in effect, that Japan and the United States, with GDPs far exceeding those of the other 12 countries, would both need to be among those six.

How much of an impact would TPP have had on Minnesota?

It is hard to say what the impact would have been on Minnesota. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minnesota exported $9.5 billion in goods to TPP nations in 2015. That includes health, high-tech and manufacturing exports that are currently subject to import tariffs of up to 59 percent.

The TPP included intellectual property provisions that could have potentially provided more protections for Minnesota's high-tech companies to expand into new markets. The impacts of what-could-have-been opportunities are difficult to predict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.