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Top Moments in Trade in 2016

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The better part of the year was spent focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership—from signing the deal to dissecting what exactly would be duty free and win to surmising what wins would befall Vietnam—and finally, to Donald Trump becoming the U.S. president-elect and promising to do away with the whole deal.

Outside of TPP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) also hit a halt and the EU signed a trade agreement with Canada after much back and forth.

Here’s a look at the major happenings in trade in 2016.

TPP trade deal signed

The United States and 11 other nations signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement on Feb. 3 amid a range of protests in member countries—including in front of the White House with a banner that reads “TPP=Betrayal,” plus both support and outrage on the Internet, and a U.S. senator imploring Congress the day before to reject the deal.

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam signed the agreement with the United States, which together makes up 40 percent of the world’s GDP, at a ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand.

TPP all but revoked

Just days after Donald Trump won the U.S. election, White House officials said the TPP trade agreement would not be pushed in the lame-duck session of Congress. Though both contenders had voiced their opposition to TPP throughout their presidential campaigns, the Obama administration was hoping to press ahead with the deal if Clinton had won.

“In terms of the TPP agreement itself, [Senate Majority] Leader McConnell has spoken to that, and it’s something that he’s going to work with the president-elect to figure out where they go in terms of trade agreements in the future,” Wally Adeyemo, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, told The Wall Street Journal, echoing comments made by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) on Nov. 9 that TPP would remain on hold until Trump decides the way forward.

Less than two weeks later, Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of TPP on day one of his term in office.

“I’m going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said. “Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs back onto American shores.”

NAFTA could be on the chopping block too

In his all-out attacks against America’s current trade policies and agreements, Trump said before his surprise win, that he would also pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if his renegotiation efforts didn’t take.

“This wave of globalization has wiped out our middle class,” Trump said, adding, “It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn it all around—and we can turn it around fast.”

The president-elect seems to so far be sticking to his “revamping” plans for the 22-year-old deal, saying in November that he would have the U.S. leave NAFTA if it couldn’t be improved to his definition of what’s right for America.

Brexit sent markets wild

In June, British citizens voted to leave the European Union, the U.K.’s then prime minister David Cameron promptly resigned and the pound—as well as financial markets in general—went reeling.

“The British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path, and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction,” the prime minister said at the time. “I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”

Since then, UK manufacturers have started passing price increases from the pound’s depreciation on to customers, supply chain strategies have shifted and the World Bank blamed Brexit for slow growth in the global economy.

Once Brexit is officially initiated, it will take two years for the U.K. to officially be out of the union, but the British ambassador to the U.S. said this month that settling a new trade deal between Britain and the European Union could take as long as a decade.

TTIP was largely ignored

Though the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) took a backseat to the TPP, the Obama Administration and the European Union pressed on with negotiations, promising up to the U.S. November election to keep talks on the deal going, still in hopes of getting it settled before President Obama left office.

In September, however, it became most clear that the TTIP wouldn’t be finalized during the current administration.

At a ministers’ meeting in Bratislava at the end of September, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said, “all ministers expressed their doubts about being able to conclude this before the end of the Obama presidency, and indeed it looks increasingly unlikely,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman also said at the time, “There’s a lot at stake here and the administration is committed to taking this as far as we can take it this year and we’ll see what happens.”

At a United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) event on Nov. 9, David Spooner, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Washington, D.C., and former chief textile and apparel negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), said, “Talks have not been going well. Negotiation rounds have not been very productive.” He added, “The German vice chancellor and the French trade minister have both called for the talks to end.”

EU and Canada sign free trade deal

After a bit of a setback from Belgium, the European Union and Canada signed a free trade agreement in late October that will eliminate nearly all duties and possibly pave the way for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States.

The EU and Canada signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Sunday that’s expected to mean more jobs and greater economic growth for both sides.

CETA will eliminate almost 99 percent of tariffs on goods, which is expected to benefit the EU textile sector as current Canadian duties can be as high as 18 percent.

Some had been concerned that a failed CETA would be problematic for the EU and trade at a time when the region is trying to regain stability after Brexit threw things off balance.

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