The “Asia Pivot” was dealt another setback today: Vietnam’s parliament has put a vote on whether to ratify TPP on hold, the Bangkok Post reports:
“The TPP will not be on the assembly’s agenda because the government’s proposal is not completed,” a parliament source familiar with the matter told Reuters. He did not elaborate.
Vietnamese ratification was widely considered a formality, having already been approved in January by the top brass of the ruling Communist Party.
The National Assembly is 96% composed of party members and domestic opposition to the TPP is unheard of. Its next session begins on Oct 20.
The delay means that at the earliest, ratification by Vietnam would be several months after the Nov 8 US presidential election.
TPP is under fire in the United States too, of course, with both major presidential candidates saying they oppose the free trade deal and Congress trying to avoid a vote. That situation has created uncertainty that’s prompting some authorities around the Pacific to question their own commitment to the pact.
But in Vietnam, getting the deal through was expected to be relatively easy. It may still pass parliament, but Hanoi’s hesitation doesn’t bode well for Washington’s Asia policy. It’s yet another sign that the pivot might not be going according to plan—and according to President Obama’s most ardent wishes, given how much of his foreign policy legacy he has staked on Asia. And it’s evidence that the free trade deals elites have been pushing since the end of the Cold War may be running into a big wall.