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So Much for the Pivot
TPP on the Brink of Failure

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a possible trade pact that would encompass 12 countries and 40 percent of the global economy, is close to failing. Japan and the United States, the two largest economies taking part in negotiations over the TPP, can’t agree on several sensitive issues. Over the weekend Japanese and American officials met separately on the sidelines to try to resolve their differences. Afterward, the Japanese Economics Minister told Reuters that “considerable gaps” remained.

One of the especially thorny issues is farm tariffs. Japan’s politically powerful farmers are resisting efforts to lower income tariffs on agricultural products. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has attempted to push the TPP through these objections, as the trade pact has the potential to grow Japan’s economy 2.2 percent by 2025, Reuters reports.

The most intractable issue in TPP negotiations is “fast-track” negotiating power. Called TPA, or trade promotion authority, the fast-track option essentially forces Congress to vote a straight yes or no on trade packages rather than negotiate or amend specific provisions. The White House needs Congress to approve TPA or else the other countries involved in the TPP talks will worry that Congress could, on a whim, overturn agreements struck by U.S. negotiators. In Washington, both Republicans and Democrats oppose TPA in Congress. “No on Fast Track…out of the question,” Nancy Pelosi told a group of steelworkers earlier this month.

With midterm elections approaching in November, the Democrats are loath to irritate their base by pushing too hard on TPA. A TPA bill introduced in Congress last month is on hold, and alternatives are being discussed, albeit slowly. “Addressing the issues and concerns of the people of this country on TPP is the No. 1 item on the agenda now for trade,” said Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House subcommittee on trade. President Obama would agree: “We’ll get this passed if it’s a good agreement,” he said at a news conference with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts last week. TPP is key to his signature “pivot” to Asia, and thus key to his foreign policy legacy. It will take a lot of effort on his part to win over the congressional naysayers—perhaps especially those from his own party.

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  • rheddles

    Does anyone think the man who said “If you like your health plan, you can keep it” will be given TPA? When trust is broken, it’s hard to lead.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Especially since numerous provisions of this agreement (particularly those dealing with intellectual property) have been kept shrouded in secrecy.
      Given this administration’s willingness to ignore inconvenient provisions in existing law, why would any rational person give them new powers?

  • S.C. Schwarz

    This will never happen. Obama never does anything that might annoy his base and that is doubly true with a midterm election looming.

  • Fat_Man

    Obama has demonstrated that if he has authority, he will abuse it for narrow partisan purposes and to enrich his crony donors. He should not be trusted with any more authority than he already has.

  • crocodilechuck

    Does the writer and any of the commenters here even REALISE what this ‘TPP’ actually IS?

    We already have free trade, in terms of the relaxation of tariffs that have been steadily dismantled in H2 of the 20thC.

    The TPP is about enshrining the power and authority of corporations over sovereign nations. So, along with extending copyright to 125 years (is anyone shocked?), preventing the sale of generic drugs (in favour of ones which can be rolled over ad infinitum as ‘patented’) corporations will have the power to sue countries, if they are unhappy with the returns they have made on ‘investments’ within these.

    Suggest that the blogger and all below read this post – and have a lie down and a think*:

    * you are collectively castigating Obama for NOT getting this over the line!!

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