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U.S. Trade Policy: Still Waiting for a "21st Century Trade Agreement"

By Timothy A. Wise and Kevin P. Gallagher
LATN SerieBrief No. 67, August 2011
Download the full report.

Negotiations are well along on the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade area of the Pacific that the Obama Administration promises will break with the NAFTA model and be “a trade agreement for the 21st century.” In this new policy brief from the Latin America Trade Network (LATN), GDAE Researchers Timothy A. Wise and Kevin P. Gallagher show that U.S. TPP proposals are straight from the NAFTA mold. In fact, some provisions weaken or eliminate the few improvements made since NAFTA.

Basing their analysis on a detailed set of proposals from the Task Force on North American Trade Policy, the authors find that the TPP and the proposed FTAs with Korea, Colombia and Panama:

  • Fail to adopt essential provisions for protecting both the environment and labor rights,

  • Fail to recognize the asymmetries in development among trading partners,

  • Promote intellectual property regimes that fail to foster domestic innovation, while Korea and the TPP abandon key improvements to allow the use of generic drugs,

  • Fall short of the recommendations to abandon investor protections and do not prevent U.S. firms from suing foreign governments over regulations in the public interest,

  • Place dangerous restrictions on governments’ ability to curb capital flows in times of financial crisis.

This policy report builds on GDAE’s decade of research on the lessons from NAFTA for future trade agreements, and on the Task Force report, "The Future of North American Trade Policy: Lessons from NAFTA." The report, which is now available in Spanish, contains detailed recommendations from NAFTA experts in the contentious areas of agriculture, manufacturing, services, investment, intellectual property, labor, environment, and migration.

Download the full report, U.S. Trade Policy: Still Waiting for a "21st Century Trade Agreement"

Download a one-page summary of the recommendations from the Task Force.

Watch an interview with Timothy A Wise and Kevin P. Gallagher on the recommendations from the Task Force on North American Trade Policy:

Watch an interview with Timothy A. Wise on President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP):

Watch other interviews with GDAE researchers in our Globalization Multimedia Room.


The Global Development and Environment Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program examines the economic, social and environmental impacts of economic integration in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on the WTO and NAFTA's lessons for trade and development policy. The goal of the program is to identify policies and international agreements that foster sustainable development.

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