What if the TPP and Panama Canal Expansion Coincide?

Shipping Containers at the terminal at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. Public Domain Image.

Shipping Containers at the terminal at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. Public Domain Image.

Twelve countries in the Pacific Rim. Ten years in the making. The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), if you haven't gathered, is one big trade deal. 

 What isn't particularly special about The TPP is how politicians and interest groups feel about it. Arguments fall along party lines, for the most part. Liberals worry the TPP will not protect the environment or domestic workers adequately. Conservatives worry the TPP won't protect intellectual property and data privacy. Some fear it'll kill domestic manufacturing jobs. Others celebrate the idea that new markets and products will emerge as nation's shed their protective tariffs, allowing for more prosperity. For some, the TPP seems too similar to NAFTA. 

Compounding the intrigue and divisiveness surrounding the deal, Hillary Clinton expressed her disapproval of the TPP, despite serving as President Obama's Secretary of State and having praised the concept in years past. 

What is special about the TPP, aside from the magnitude of the deal, is that it might coincide with the Panama Canal expansion. The expansion is slated to open in April of 2016. The Panama Canal expansion, in and of itself, will triple the capacity of the canal allowing bigger, heavier ships to move between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Imagine the impact of an increase in trade capacity at the same time as an easing of trade barriers. Would the two events lead to lower prices and boost the global economy? Or put thousands out of work and cripple local economies?

Whether you are hand wringing or high-fiving over the TPP, the ramifications of this trade deal, if it passes congress, would potentially allow an unprecedented flow of seafood, rice, dairy and other food into and out of the United States. Japanese rice farmers would suddenly lose fiercely protective tariffs while Japanese sake makers would benefit from lower prices. 

Look for deeper analysis of the impact of the TPP on the global food supply chain in our upcoming issues.