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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Challenges of Unraveling the Noodle Bowl

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Abstract Much has been made of the “spaghetti or noodle bowl” problem of overlapping preferential trade agreements (PTA). A new PTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently under negotiation between eleven states – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam – is intended to help address this issue. The TPP will lower or eliminate barriers to trade among the partners. But officials are not operating in a vacuum as they negotiate this new agreement. Instead, they must contend with rules created in previous agreements, many of which link TPP partners together in ways that constrain their options now. This article looks in detail at negotiations over market access in goods to better understand the tradeoffs faced by negotiators. Unfortunately, some of the decisions made so far after three years of talks suggest that the TPP market access deal could end up being just another twisted noodle in a crowded bowl.

Affiliations: 1: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University Singapore


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