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TPP Broad Agreement Reached

Ministers from the member countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade pact have reached a broad agreement.

The TPP negotiations began in 2010. A dozen countries involved want to liberalize trade around the Pacific Rim. They have been struggling to agree on eliminating tariffs on sensitive areas such as food, services and intellectual property. The 12 nations account for about 36 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product.

Trade delegates have spent 5 years trying to create a free-trade zone around the Pacific Rim. Here's a recap of the main stages of the negotiations.

The TPP free-trade talks began in 2010 with 8 countries involved, including the United States and Australia. 4 more countries, including Japan and Mexico, joined the talks later, bringing the number of members up to 12 by 2013.

The gap between emerging countries and the US stalled talks.

But in April 2014, the Americans changed their position on tariff elimination. They accepted the principle that nations could maintain tariffs at a certain level.

Negotiators from economic giants Japan and the US even seemed set to achieve a breakthrough over tariffs on beef and pork.

But the talks ran out of steam because of the US mid-term elections last November. President Barack Obama decided to devote his time to campaigning for his party.

After the election, Obama set his sights on passing a bill that would give him the authority to fast-track trade deals.

Without this bill, the US Congress could interfere with what member countries agree to in the negotiations. But, it was tough going. After a drawn out debate, the bill finally passed Congress in June, paving the way for a ministerial meeting.

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