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Why opinions are so split on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Monday's agreement by the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations to set up a free-trade zone for an area encompassing about 40 percent of the world's economy has been controversial ever since initial negotiations began several years ago.

According to the Obama administration, the newly agreed-on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will provide a "more level playing field" for American agriculture, manufacturing and other business sectors, while getting rid of the nearly 20,000 taxes that other nations currently impose on Made-in-America products.

"With the TPP, we can rewrite the rules of trade to benefit America's middle class," said a statement posted on WhiteHouse.gov. "Because if we don't, competitors who don't share our values, like China, will step in to fill that void."

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Not everyone is celebrating the deal. The United Auto Workers union has expressed concerns in recent years that the TPP would allow Japan to keep its carmakers within its protectionist system. Ford (F) said the TPP in its current form doesn't prevent the currency manipulation that can hurt international trade and the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.

Environmentalists aren't pleased, either. Friends of the Earth criticized the agreement for being made "behind closed doors." It also warned that if adopted, the TPP "would stymie environmental regulation and ramp up U.S. exports of climate-destroying fossil fuels."

And while the agreement has received bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, it's yet not a done deal. President Obama can't sign it until Congress reviews it and it has been made public for at least 60 days.

But some business analysts suggest that the TPP could have many long-term benefits for the U.S. economy, in part by expanding the middle class in its member countries and thereby creating larger markets for American goods and services. They also note that China, the world's second-largest economy, isn't part of the TPP, which in turn might create some quite visible effects for U.S. consumers.

"One of the most notable changes would be that the 'Made in China' tag that accompanies so many goods these days may very well start saying 'Made in Vietnam," Corey Boles, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, told CBS MoneyWatch. "Vietnam, I think, is one of the countries that's going to benefit the most from this accord."

And while U.S. manufacturing jobs may never return to their previous levels, Boles said U.S. service providers -- that is, American-based banks, insurance firms, travel services and a variety of other companies that currently make up the bulk of America's economic engine -- will benefit by gaining access to larger markets in TPP nations.

Boles also thinks the deal will not only help U.S. exports but will also send a strong signal to China, which has criticized the TPP. China has been advocating for a regional, multinational trade zone to "play more nicely with its neighbors in its backyard," said Boles.

"If you're a country like China, which perhaps has acted with impunity in the past," he continued, "going forward it's going to be more difficult to do so, if one wants to have access to this kind of economies of scale."

Other analysts pointed out that while the TPP is a trade accord, it's also an important geopolitical tool for the U.S.

"In the new cool war, China's rising economic influence is giving it greater geopolitical power in Asia," Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, blogged earlier this year. "The TPP is, above all, an effort to push back on China's powerful trade relationships to reduce its political clout."

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