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Historic Pacific trade deal passes, faces skeptics in U.S. Congress

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between several Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of matters of economic policy

Published: Updated:

Twelve Pacific Rim countries on Monday reached the most ambitious trade pact in a generation, aiming to liberalize commerce in 40 percent of the world's economy in a deal that faces skepticism from U.S. lawmakers.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact struck in Atlanta after marathon talks could reshape industries, change the cost of products from cheese to cancer treatments and have repercussions for drug companies and automakers.

Tired negotiators worked round the clock over the weekend to settle tough issues such as monopoly rights for new biotech drugs. New Zealand's demand for greater access for its dairy exports was only settled at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) on Monday.

If approved, the pact would cut trade barriers and set common standards from Vietnam to Canada. It would also furnish a legacy-shaping victory for U.S. President Barack Obama, who will promote the agreement on Tuesday in remarks to business leaders in Washington.

The Obama administration hopes the pact will help the United States increase its influence in East Asia and help counter the rise of China, which is not one of the TPP nations.

Lawmakers in the United States and other TPP countries must approve the deal. Five years in the making, it would reduce or eliminate tariffs on almost 18,000 categories of goods.

The United States and Australia negotiated a compromise on the minimum period of protection to the rights for data used to make biologic drugs. Companies such as Pfizer Inc, Roche Group’s Genentech and Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical could be affected.

The agreed terms fell short of what the United States had sought. Under the deal, countries would give drugmakers at least five years' exclusive access to clinical data used to win approval for new drugs. An additional period of regulatory review would likely mean drug companies would have an effective monopoly for about eight years before facing lower-cost, generic competition.

The deal between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam also sets minimum standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to environmental protection.