A major thrust of President Obama’s pitch for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP, is geopolitical. As the president himself put it last year,
The world has changed. The rules are changing with it. The United States, not countries like China, should write them. Let’s seize this opportunity, pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make sure America isn’t holding the bag, but holding the pen.
In other words: there’s a race for influence in the Asia-Pacific between the U.S. and China. Only one can win. Either China sets the rules, or the U.S. does. If China gets there first, their rules will prevail.
This story seems to assume that the rules the countries would set are different. Is this true?
We don’t have to guess. Wolfgang Alschner and Dmitriy Skougarevskiy are the brains behind the website Mapping Investment Treaties. The site allows text-as-data comparisons between thousands of ratified and proposed international treaties. In an article published earlier this year, Wolfgang and Dmitriy concluded:
China is likely to be most sympathetic to a multilateralization of investment disciplines around TPP. The country is among the states that have concluded most investment agreements. Moreover, its recent BIT with Canada overlaps textually to 50% with the TPP and converges in substance in some areas. When it comes to MFN, for instance, the China–Canada BIT is the closest treaty to TPP in our database.
That said, they go on to note several differences between the U.S. and Chinese templates.
I wanted to know just how different the two pacts where, so I asked this legal power duo to create a special feature on their website to allow the rest of us to compare Obama’s TPP with the Canada-China bilateral investment treaty, or BIT, which was signed in 2012 and entered into force in 2014. Thankfully, they agreed.