Ministers from a dozen countries finalized the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Wednesday night as groups of protesters blocked major intersections in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was finalized following a final agreement reached by negotiators in October.
Under terms of the TPP, a free trade zone now exists among 12 Pacific nations that together account for 40% of the world’s economy.
The TPP was a long time coming because of politics that existed at the national level.
Japanese automakers and farmers, for example, were worried about losing business if cheaper American imports were allowed to flood Japan. In Australia, opponents worried the TPP could result in higher drug prices.
Critics in the United States were most worried that US made goods would be forced to compete against products produced by low-wage workers overseas, while advocates said it would boost exports and support well-paid jobs at home.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership also took place behind closed doors, a move that is not unusual for trade negotiations, as world leaders attempt to avoid any details being leaked out before an agreement can be reached.
Australia’s minister for trade Andrew Robb was the first to sign the pact. New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay, added the last signature.
US President Barack Obama said the agreement was a new type of trade deal “that puts American workers first.”
“Partnership would give the United States an advantage over other leading economies, namely China,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
“TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st Century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific,” the POTUS added.
“We should get TPP done this year and give more American workers the shot at success they deserve and help more American businesses compete and win around the world.”
The TPP excludes China and some experts believe that fact could help cement American influence in the Pacific, while allowing the US to set trade rules for much of Asia.
The move to exclude China shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the country has negotiated its own trade pacts with foreign governments in recent years.
China’s own trade pacts include agreements with Australia, Switzerland, Peru, Chile, and Pakistan.