Final round of TPP talks fraught with questions

The latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks recently kicked off in Atlanta, Ga., as the 12 nations involved seek to bring the sometimes contentious and mostly under-wraps negotiations to an end sooner rather than later. 

Officials once again began digging into the details of the massive trade deal in an attempt to quickly complete it. These Atlanta negotiations represent the final mile of the marathon the 12 nations have been running. Issues ranging from dairy products to auto part sourcing have all represented snags in the progress of the negotiations, and officials involved in the discussions are almost certainly excited about the prospect of putting the trade talks to bed. However, as per usual, the latest round of discussion is not without its own obstacles. 

How to treat dairy is just one of the issues holding back TPP negotiations.How to treat dairy products is just one of the issues holding back TPP negotiations.

Negotiators set to continue their slog through contentious issues
A New Zealand official recently told a news outlet that negotiators need to make progress on issues such as dairy and automobiles, according to Reuters. New Zealand in particular is the world's largest exporter of dairy, and would like improved access to U.S., Canadian and Japanese markets. 

"There's still some work to do in automobiles, biologics and IP, and around dairy obviously in New Zealand's case," Mike Petersen, the country's agricultural trade envoy, told Radio New Zealand. "We need ministers to make the hard calls on those areas, and we're hopeful they can do so over the next couple of days."

Andrew Robb, the Australian trade minister, was confident in his assessment of where negotiators stand, and whether they will complete the deal. He called the TPP "imminent," according to Politico, and described the agreement as being 90 percent done. He had earlier pegged this estimate as high as 98 percent. 

Businesses worry that TPP could have negative impact
That reduction could be in part due to the various roadblocks negotiators still face. For example, there are concerns about the ways in which Canadian businesses will be impacted by the trade agreement. In Canada, the agriculture and automotive industries could be negatively affected should negotiations not go their way, CTV News explained. The country's largest private-sector union, Unifor, is concerned that one portion of the deal allowing some countries to export vehicles to North America with fewer Canada-made parts could hurt businesses. Issues such as the one raised by Unifor have long slowed the progress of negotiations. 

"The White House had hoped to complete the deal by the end 2015."

Political disagreement could delay TPP further 
The White House had hoped the 12 nations involved could complete the deal by the end of the year. However, that seems unlikely at this point. The Washington Post noted that even if negotiators were able to hammer out an agreement this week, it would take another three to four months for the deal to reach the House and Senate floors. That's a big "if," though, considering the snags negotiators still face, as well as the brewing opposition among lawmakers and citizens in many of the 12 nations involved in the pact. 

The hostility to the TPP in the U.S. may be a particularly difficult obstacle to overcome following House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) announcement that he will resign at the end of October. Many of the House Republicans who comprised the group of lawmakers pushing for a Boehner ouster are the same who are opposed to the massive Pacific Rim trade deal, Salon noted. By the time TPP reaches Congress, Boehner will be gone and the deal's opposition will have much more power than they did when, for instance, trade promotion authority was passed. In addition to those Republicans opposed to the agreement, there is a swath of Democrats also displeased with TPP. 

Though negotiators are kicking off what they hope is the final round of TPP discussions, obstacles remain, even beyond the negotiating table. These potential roadblocks only grow when the presidential race in the U.S. is taken into consideration. Negotiators may be entering the final round of TPP talks, but they are likely far from seeing the trade agreement become a reality.