Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast-Track Leads To Odd Friends And Foes
In a move so quintessentially Washington politics, Republican lawmakers and the White House have come to an agreement that would make passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement both easier and more difficult. The agreement, expected to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee this week, gives President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the final phase of the pact without interference from Congress. But to get such authority, Obama had to agree that any trade deal he negotiated would be subject to months long review by Congress and the public, which means that though the President may be able to negotiate a deal quicker getting an agreement passed by Congress could take so long that its passage might actually take place during the administration of the next president.
There is precedent for that, of course. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was first negotiated under George H.W. Bush but finally passed under his successor, Bill Clinton who had to battle with leaders of his own party. Likewise, Obama has already butted heads with fellow Democrats who have been joined in opposition by environmentalists and labor unions that have referred to the TPP as “NAFTA on steroids.”
HURRY UP AND WAIT
Obama will negotiate the rest of the TPP without Congress looking over his shoulder and, as in the past, the President will have to notify Congress of the trade accord’s completion 90 days before he intends on signing it. Additionally, the new agreement means the whole deal will have to be made public 60 days before he sends it to Congress where it will not even begin to be considered it for another month.
And there’s more.
Lawmakers will only have the option of voting yes or no on the entire agreement with no freedom to change or delete parts, that is unless something in the agreement doesn’t meet the standards on the environment, human rights or labor issues and then Congress can offer amendments if its member can manage a 60-vote majority.
Got all that?
TPP NEARLY HALF OF GLOBAL TRADE
All that extra motion means that Congress would, at the earliest, start considering the TPP in October right as party presidential debates are taking place, meaning the trade agreement process will be more politicized than usual. And good luck getting anyone to take a stand on an agreement that hits hot button items like labor, international relations/trade during a Presidential election year, all of which means it could fall to President Walker/Clinton/Rubio/Kardashian to carry the water for finalizing or scuttling the deal.
The TPP has already proven to make strange allies and opponents, understandable given what’s at stake: a trade pact that not only involves such trade titans as the US, Japan and China, but burgeoning economies in Asia and South America, in all totaling 40 percent of world trade.
Not only has the TPP aligned the White House with Republicans against Democrats but such left-leaning industries as high-tech and Hollywood have announced their support for TPP because they are eager for the copyright protection they say it will deliver.
On the other side, labor unions have announced their intention to vigorously fight the agreement because they believe it will make it too easy for American companies to send jobs overseas. The AFL-CIO has said it will devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to an anti-TPP advertising campaign.
How committed is opposition? Consider that when he was asked if he favored Obama getting trade promotion authority, Senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, answered, “Not only no, but hell no!”