By Alan Yuhas, November 13, 2016
Obama administration admits defeat after congressional leaders from both parties say they will not bring trade deal forward during lame-duck session. Top advisers to Barack Obama have said they could not imagine a way to advance the president’s signature trade deal through Congress in the next two months.
White House officials conceded on Friday that the president’s hard-fought-for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would not pass Congress, as lawmakers there prepared for the anti-global trade policies of President-elect Donald Trump. Earlier this week, congressional leaders in both parties said they would not bring the trade deal forward during a lame-duck session of Congress, before the formal transition of power on 20 January.
The Democratic senator Chuck Schumer, who will be minority leader in the next Congress, told union leaders the trade deal would not pass. Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s Republican majority leader, told reporters “no” when asked if Congress would consider the TPP.
The deal has supporters in both parties but became a campaign symbol for lost manufacturing jobs, especially in the rust belt states.
The TPP would have included the US and 11 countries in Asia, South America and the south Pacific, and was designed in large part to curb the growing economic influence of China.
But it was attacked almost daily by Trump, who called it “a continuing rape of our country” and argued that as a symbol of globalized manufacturing in general, it had sent jobs from the US to other countries and damaged the American economy.
Trump has similarly argued that the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – negotiated by George HW Bush, signed by both Republican and Democratic presidents and passed through a Republican Congress – destroyed jobs in the US.
Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, argued against the TPP in its current form, although she supported it while secretary of state for the Obama White House. During the Democratic primary she was pushed by Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist senator from Vermont, to give up her support.
On Monday, Barack Obama is scheduled to travel to Greece, Germany and Peru, his final major trip abroad in office. At an economic summit in Peru, Obama will meet its president, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Australia and Peru were both slated to join the TPP deal. On Friday, one of Obama’s top advisers could not imagine a way to ensure its passage in the next two months.
“We’re clear-eyed about the current situation,” Ben Rhodes told the Associated Press. “But we believe what we believe about the value of trade and the importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the United States.
“And I think, given its size and importance, it’s going to have to continue to be a focus for the next president and Congress going forward no matter what.” Also on Friday, Wally Adeyemo, a deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, told the Wall Street Journal: “In terms of the TPP agreement itself, Leader McConnell has spoken to that, and it’s something that he’s going to work with the president-elect to figure out where they go in terms of trade agreements in the future.”
Despite popular opposition from voters, few details of the TPP were discussed on the campaign trail. It would have phased out thousands of tariffs other countries place on US imports, making products easier to sell abroad, for instance for ranchers selling beef to customers in Japan and Australia. It also would have set up open internet and copyright protections across the 12 nations, benefitting the entertainment industry and undercutting online piracy in China. The deal also included provisions against wildlife trafficking and child labor, holding countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia to higher standards.
Opponents of the deal, including many unions, argued it did not protect against countries that manipulate their currency and foreign companies suing, in special tribunals, for exemptions to various US rules.