TPP in trouble: Why we can win this fight!
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The below is an abridged version of the Medium article “TPP in Trouble.” Read the full version here.
On Wednesday, July 29 almost 400 Hawaiians and visitors from around the globe gathered on the beach in Kaanapali on the island of Maui. They came for a rally, which Friends of the Earth co-sponsored, calling for a stop to negotiations between 12 Pacific countries led by the United States that opened that day with the expectation of completing an environmentally destructive Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. This round of TPP talks was called on the heels of the Congress’ approval late June of Fast Track trade promotion legislation by the narrowest of margins. Fast Track makes it easier to push the TPP deal through Congress.
Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, received a sharp rebuke in Maui when the other parties to the talks rejected his package for a TPP deal. Froman will have to renegotiate and may have a hard time getting a deal that he can sell to Congress. Issues related to trade in sugar, dairy and automotive products could prompt a sizable number of pro-Fast Track legislators to vote against the TPP. Intellectual property issues related to the cost of life-saving medicines and a failure to provide even minimally useful environmental conservation language could also cause some congressional supporters of Fast Track to spurn the TPP.
The TPP ran into more trouble immediately after the close of Maui talks: the Obama administration chose to upgrade the status of Malaysia on the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report on human rights. Many in Congress reacted with anger, and some members who voted for Fast Track may vote “no” on the TPP, as will some tobacco state members angered by the refusal of negotiators to authorize TPP investment suits for Big Tobacco to attack anti-smoking regulations.
And time is running out for a congressional vote on a completed TPP deal during President Obama’s term of office. Even if Michael Froman announced tomorrow that he had a framework agreement on the TPP, it would take about four and a half months before Congress could vote on it. Ultimately, a TPP vote is likely to be pushed into the 2016, an election year, when many members of Congress will be reluctant to cast a controversial vote for fear of losing their seats or when presidential campaign politics could peel off Democratic votes for the deal. According to Gary Hufbauer, a TPP advocate at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, “Clinton might be forced by opponents such as Sen. Bernie Sanders into a position of opposing the agreement or promising to renegotiate if elected president.”