The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) began with four small nations in 2005. It was a sort of mini-free trade agreement.
But in July 2008, the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation stalled after a few days' talks in Geneva. This round had been going for almost seven years, without agreement. The blocking issue was how smaller nations could protect their agricultural base against massive foreign imports and aggressive price-undercutting by competitors. They wanted a "Special Safeguard Mechanism" (SSM)that would allow them to impose import tariffs.
The United States had already started talking to the TPP back in February 2008, ostensibly on the issue of financial services; now (September 2008) she declared her intention to apply for TPP membership. This was like an elephant joining four kids in their inflatable backyard pool:
And if all applicants are accepted, then together they will have almost sealed-off the Eastern Pacific to non-members:
As America turns her face towards the East in the 21st century, this may become significant. Brooking Institution fellow Joshua Meltzer told a Congressional Committee in May, "The TPP has the potential to be the building block for a wider Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific Region (FTAAP)".
There are powerful players at work, and much smoke being created. Worldwide, but particularly in Africa, there is a rush to grab agricultural land. Protestors are arguing against the dispossession of small farmers; the World Bank counters the interests of producers, expressing its concern instead for poor urban consumers in this 2010 report: