U.S. and Other Pacific Rim Countries Reach ‘Very Big Deal’

In a landmark agreement designed to create jobs and lift economic growth, countries accounting for nearly half of the world’s economy have committed to cut trade barriers and set common standards.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is designed to encourage trade between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.

“It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history, and those commitments are enforceable,” President Obama said. And “it promotes a free and open Internet.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the agreement as “a farsighted policy for all participating countries that share the values and try to build a free and fair economic zone.”

Environmentalists have already praised its wildlife protections, which they say could help curb the illegal trade in endangered species like rhinos and elephants.

“The provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership go beyond what we have seen in other trade agreements,” David McCauley of the World Wildlife Fund told the New York Times. “We see this as a very big deal.”

The agreement still must be reviewed by the U.S. Congress, which can only vote to approve or disapprove the pact. It cannot offer amendments.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.