The US, Japan and 10 other Pacific countries have agreed a free trade deal that covers around 40 per cent of the world's economy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will reduce trade barriers between member countries and introduce common standards for goods, influencing everything from the price of cheese to pick-up trucks and cancer treatments.
Negotiations over drug patents have been one of the factors delaying talks, which have been going on for five years, with the final round beginning last Wednesday in Atlanta, covering how long monopolies on producing biotech medicines should last, which affects companies like Pfizer.
The pact has been criticised by workers' rights groups stretching from Canada to Mexico to New Zealand, as favouring corporations.
The other countries included in the TPP are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The partnership is expected to be announced officially later today, and must still be ratified by the countries' governments.
|TPP: Here's everything you need to know|
What is it?
A trade agreement between 12 Pacific countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam,
It will effectively create a single market with more than 650m people.
The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico says 62.5 per cent of vehicle components must be from within the trade area to qualify, but the TPP will allow Japan's car manufacturers more freedom to use parts from the rest of Asia for US-bound cars, but will phase-out the import tariffs more slowly.
What will it do?
Broadly speaking, the TPP is designed to make cross-border trade easier, by reducing the bureaucracy and import tariffs for partners, making them 'duty-free.' It will also reduced certain subsidises and trade embargoes.
There are intellectual property agreements, which criminalise copyright breaches, in an effort to clamp down on sharing music and movies online, and other legal standards to protect the environmental and workers rights, as well as dispute settlement guidelines.
What were the problems?
Negotiations have been highly secretive, and critics have complained about the high-levels of access corporate lobbyists have had, while workers and consumers alike are kept in the dark.
Critics have attacked draconian intellectual property rules, as well as a lack of environmental protections and workers' rights. There were also disagreements between countries over drug monopolies, data-privacy for online shopping sites, tobacco exemptions agricultural export subsidies, which the US has kept.
One of the major issues has been how long pharmaceutical companies should have exclusive rights to produce next-generation biological drugs. The US was pushing for 12 years, while Australia and New Zealand wanted five-years, which would bring down costs, especially for state-subsidised healthcare programmes.
Reuters reported the US Biotechnology Industry Association said it was “very disappointed” by reports that US negotiators had not been able to convince Australia and other TPP members to adopt the 12-year standard approved by Congress.
“We will carefully review the entire TPP agreement once the text is released by the ministers,” the industry lobby said in a statement.