TPP Series: Obama wins trade battle, but the war is not over

TPP Series: Obama wins trade battle, but the war is not over
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After six months of political teeth pulling, President Obama has finally received Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – commonly referred to as “fast track.” But despite this major victory in the battle for TPA, the war for TPP is far from over.

While Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) allows Ambassador Michael Froman and his team of negotiators to enter into the final stages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, there is no absolute certainty of the final passage of the TPP when it comes to the floor of Congress.

Trade deal won’t pass without a fight

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent out by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat switched her focus from the TPA debate to the actual contents of the TPP. In it, she wrote, “We all recognize that the next debate will be over the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself.”

This proves the Democrats and liberal groups are already preparing for a new fight when the actual trade deal comes to a vote. Going forward, only the most contentious issues are left to negotiate, and it remains to be seen how the Administration can effectively reach a deal on issues such as intellectual property, labor, environmental protection, and investor-state arbitration.

Swift action by Obama may prevent deadlock

Given how long it took to pass the TPA, the administration will have to move quickly in finalizing the trade agreement with its 11 counterparts in order to accommodate the three-month review period mandated by the TPA bill, and then proceed to get final ratification of the trade deal itself.

The longer the final passage is drawn out and the closer it gets to the 2016 elections, the more burdensome a “yes” vote will be for the pro-trade Democrats. Meanwhile, it’s safe to assume that Democrats on the left will likely continue to work with Big Labor groups such as the AFL-CIO to persuade members to change their votes once final TPP legislation is brought to the floor.

On the other hand, business interest groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable will continue to the push the trade agreement, which accounts for 60% of the global GDP and 50% of international trade.

The stakes are high for the President, as the TPP serves as the linchpin to his “pivot to Asia” and the cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy. The President has gone as far as to mobilize his own cabinet members, from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, to even the Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, in lobbying on behalf of the Administration’s trade deal.

Anti-TPP groups have already pledged to double their efforts to prevent the ratification of the TPP, having already initiated a slew of nasty ad campaigns against moderate-Democrats who supported TPA.

While many uncertainties remain with the final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, what remains certain is that the deal won’t pass without a fight.

Categories: North America, Politics

About Author

Sam Cho

Sam Cho works for a member of the United States Congress where he manages the foreign affairs, trade, and military portfolio. Prior to working for the member, he worked at the US Department of State as an analyst and for the Economic Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea on the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. Sam holds an MSc International Political Economy from The London School of Economics (LSE) and B.A. in International Studies from American University.