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On Oct. 5, after years of exhausting — and exhaustive — haggling, a dozen Pacific Rim countries finally signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that promises everything from more trade to a cleaner environment. The negotiations were such that the hair of Akira Amari, Japan’s economic and fiscal policy minister, turned completely gray. His solace, however, is that the TPP will prove to be a key foundation stone of the “Asian Century.”

The TPP’s origins, pre-dating Amari’s involvement, go back to a 2006 trade agreement among only Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, and Brunei — the so-called “Pacific 4.” The United States, Australia, Peru and Vietnam, seeing the prospect of a rules-based international order in Asia, joined the talks in March 2010, and in an instant the P-4’s small boat became a great ocean liner.

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