On 12 November, Voice of America reported as follows:
“President Barack Obama has announced that the United States and eight other Pacific nations have reached the broad outlines of an agreement to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to liberalize trade.
Negotiations aimed at finalizing the new trade group, composed of nations already members of the larger 21 member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, have been going on for months.
Though the fine details and difficulty of the talks prevented any final agreement being announced in Honolulu, the conclusion of a framework for TPP was expected.
Mr. Obama said the accord, with a group of nations already doing some $200 billion in trade with the United States each year, will have benefits for all concerned. “The TPP will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports and creating more jobs for our people, which is my number one priority,” he said.
Aside from the United States, other nations in TPP include Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru. Japan was expected to announce it would join.
The president said TPP nations have directed teams to complete work on “plenty of details” remaining so the agreement can be finalized within the coming year, and he voiced optimism this can be achieved.
Mr. Obama noted that APEC itself had years ago established a goal of establishing a Pacific-wide free trade area. TPP he said now has the potential to be a model, and addresses issues such as market regulation, workers rights, and the environment.”
A significant omission from this list is the issue of units of measurement. Perhaps this is surprising, since differing measures can be a significant barrier to trade and to the free movement of goods. But perhaps not, as eight of the nine TPP nations are metric, but the dominant member is not.
We in Britain were once believers in the importance of a single system of measures. The Barons were persuaded to include it in the list of demands placed before King John in 1215, and of course the Imperial system of measures, defined in 1824, was essential to the growth of trade within the British Empire during the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century.
It will be interesting to see how the TPP nations tackle this issue. Was this one of the ‘fine details’ that prevented agreement being announced at Honolulu? Will there be an informal ‘inner TPP’ comprising the metric eight? Will the US realise that changes are needed to measurement systems at home in order to achieve success abroad? In 1965, it was campaigning by the UK Federation of British Industries (now the CBI) that prompted the government to announce its support for the move to metric in manufacturing, and this then led to the UK metric changeover. Will this precedent be followed in the US?
And why are we discussing this on Metric Views? Partly because the slow pace of the metric changeover in the US has provided encouragement to those in Britain who would like to retain some imperial measures. Accordingly, we observe with keen interest any developments across the pond that may contribute, even in a small way, to the demise of US customary measures. Could this be one?