[President] Obama pledged that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest free-trade agreement in a generation, would open new markets for U.S. goods and services and establish rules of international commerce that give “our workers the fair shot at success they deserve.”
But almost immediately there were signs of the tough fight ahead to win final ratification from Congress next year. Lawmakers from both parties criticized the pact as falling short in crucial areas, raising the prospect that the White House could lose the support of allies who had backed the president’s trade push earlier this year.
It’s that last paragraph that is a bit troublesome, however. The TPP makes Japanese Prime Minister Sinzo Abe, the Post’s editorial board and I very happy, but we don’t have to vote on TPP, Congress does. And as PowerPost’s Kelsey Snell notes, there’s a long, arduous road ahead for TPP passage:
The first steps are expected to begin later this week when the White House formally sends Congress a notice of intent to sign the agreement, which kicks off a 90-day waiting period. Congress gets to spend the first 30 days of that time privately reviewing the documents and consulting with the administration.
Next comes the public phase. The full trade deal will be open for anyone to review for 60 days, allowing interest groups to provide feedback. This window will provide critical insight into how much popular support the deal may receive. A poor reception during the public phase could make it difficult for Obama to rally support when it comes time for Congress to vote.
The next step will be for the U.S. International Trade Commission to conduct a full economic review of the deal. The agency has up to 105 days to complete that work but the process could take much less time.
Once the implementing bill is introduced in the House and the Senate, Congress has a maximum of 90 days to approve or disapprove the trade deal but can move much more quickly.
The reactions from lawmakers on Monday was indicative of the challenges the administration faces in the weeks and months ahead as skeptics in both parties were quick to express their concerns.
Snell is right. As an exercise, I surfed the Web to see what members of Congress had said about the TPP since Monday’s announcement. Here’s what I found:
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “Closing a deal is an achievement for our nation only if it works for the American people and can pass Congress by meeting the high-standard objectives laid out in bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority. While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short…. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the United States should not settle for a mediocre deal that fails to set high-standard trade rules in the Asia-Pacific region for years to come.”
- Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.): “The administration has put big business first, workers, communities and small businesses last.”
- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): “[O]nly a good agreement—and one that meets congressional guidelines in the newly enacted Trade Promotion Authority—will be able to pass the House. I am reserving judgment until I am able to review the final text and consult with my colleagues and my constituents.”
- Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.): “We have to get this agreement right, which is why no one should be surprised if the 90-day period results in additional changes, particularly since many of these issues are the subjects of bi-lateral negotiations. The most important objective is to get the strongest agreement that benefits American workers and the U.S. economy for generations. The role of Congress now is as important as ever.”
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): ““In the weeks ahead, I will be examining the details of this agreement to determine whether it will provide the meaningful economic opportunities that Oregonians deserve, and that it reflects Oregon values.”
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision to move forward on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will hurt consumers and cost American jobs.”
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “In the months ahead, the Senate will review TPP & determine if it meets the high standards Congress and the American people have demanded.”
- Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.): “This trade agreement also has the potential to massively increase the amount of America’s natural gas that can be exported with automatic approvals, which could drive up U.S. prices and hurt American consumers, businesses and our national security. We can have free trade, but only if it is fair trade. I look forward to robust debate in Congress on this agreement that will impact nearly every American worker and business.”
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.): “[M]uch about the Trans-Pacific Partnership remains unknown.”
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): “Because these negotiations have been done in secret and without meaningful consultations with Congress, it is hard to say exactly what USTR has agreed to in Atlanta.”
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.): “This deal was hatched in secret behind closed doors so I look forward reviewing it and seeing if it’s another unfair trade deal that stacks the deck against Wisconsin workers…. The people of Wisconsin deserve more than the same failed promises from unfair trade deals that lead to job losses.”
- Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.): “I applaud the work of Ambassador Froman and the other trade ministers in closing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This historic 21st century agreement will set the trading rules for this region and 40 percent of the global economy.”
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “The TPP offers a historic opportunity to reduce trade barriers, open new markets, promote made-in-America exports, and keep American companies competitive in one of the most economically vibrant and fastest-growing regions in the world. By ending more than 18,000 import tariffs and removing additional trade barriers, the TPP will strengthen the American workforce and make our economy more competitive and prosperous.”
Never mind the first eleven statements — with Kind and McCain, you can totally feel the positive groundswell beginning!!
To be fair, once you parse the language, it’s clear that the members of Congress that were going to oppose TPP no matter what said their peace, and those members who will need to vote in favor of it to pass are reserving judgment (although Hatch’s statement is not encouraging). So there’s a decent chance that TPP will eventually pass.
But bookmark this post, because it’s clearly going to be an uphill climb for the Obama administration and TPP supporters to get this through a very truculent legislative branch.