Monday, November 19, 2018
 Congress Vote is Crucial to TPP Progress  

A bill introduced by lawmakers in the on Thursday allowing trade agreements to be fast-tracked through the Congress is a crucial step in getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks wrapped up soon.

If passed, the legislation would give President Barack Obama the power to negotiate trade agreements without the need for line-by-line approval from the US Congress which would be restricted to a yes-or-no vote on deals presented to it for ratification.

The TPP has been treading water for the past 18 months while the dozen countries involved in the talks waited for so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which still needed to be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives before it could be signed into law.

Dairy Companies Association chairman Malcolm Bailey said talks to reduce barriers to trade between the two countries most critical to a successful conclusion to the TPP – the US and Japan – had been stymied by Obama’s lack of negotiating authority.

 “Why would Japan put deep and meaningful proposals on the table which may involve painful reform at home and which uses up political capital only for it to be unwound in the US Congress?”

Bailey was hopeful the impasse could be broken if TPA was passed and other countries could then get on and wrap up the long-running TPP negotiations.

He acknowledged trade legislation was politically divisive in the US and was even opposed by many in Obama’s own party fearful of a backlash from powerful labor unions who point to the cost in lost jobs from previous trade agreements.

“It does require a lot of Republicans to swing in behind an initiative that is led by an Obama administration which politically they do not support.”

Stephen Jacobi, the executive director of the International Business Forum, which represents large primary industry exporters such as Fonterra, Zespri and ANZCO, has been in Washington DC this week speaking to business groups while the TPA debate has been raging.

He said it was certain many hardline Republicans would go against their party’s traditional free-trade credo and vote against the TPA out of a reluctance to hand Obama any sort of positive legacy as his presidency wound down but the hope was they would not be in sufficient numbers to derail the bill.
“The hope is there is a silent majority that will allow this thing to go through.”

Jacobi said it was critical to the success of the TPP that the TPA be passed before campaigns for the US presidential and congressional elections in 2016 got into full swing.

Drawing out the passage of the TPA increased the chances of any completed deal in the TPP being presented to Congress for ratification in the midst of the white-hot atmosphere of a US election campaign when many politicians would be up for re-election and even less prepared to support it than they would be if the deal were put to a vote now.

“Everybody wanted it (TPP) all over before the presidential election campaign got under way but I can tell you standing in Washington DC as I talk to you now the election campaign is already under way – we are already behind schedule.”

The TPP includes a dozen Pacific Rim countries and aims to scrap tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment with important markets for NZ exporters including the US, Japan and Canada. Talks started in early 2009 and were still to be completed.


Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2015 (Archive on Thursday, April 30, 2015)
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