Following the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, President Obama has committed to working with Congress to secure support for TPP, saying today:
Once negotiators have finalized the text of this partnership, Congress and the American people will have months to read every word before I sign it. I look forward to working with lawmakers from both parties as they consider this agreement. If we can get this agreement to my desk, then we can help our businesses sell more Made in America goods and services around the world, and we can help more American workers compete and win.
To formalize the outcomes of the agreement, TPP negotiators will continue technical work to prepare a complete text for public release, including the legal review, translation, and drafting and verification of the text. It remains unclear how long it may take before this work is completed – likely a few weeks – and the final text of the TPP deal is ready for public distribution.
Meanwhile, the path to U.S. approval of the TPP deal remains unclear. Under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation signed into law earlier this year, the President must notify Congress of his intent to sign the agreement at least 90 days before doing so, and must publicly post the text of the agreement no less than 60 days before signature. However, we expect the Administration will release the final text as soon as possible, to help dispel rumors and detail how the agreement will benefit U.S. industries.
While the TPA vote was highly contentious and supporters lobbied hard to secure enough votes for passage, a vote against TPA does not necessarily mean a vote against TPP. For example, many Republicans objected to the TPA bill because they did not support what they argued was a grant of authority for the President to negotiate free trade agreements, leaving Congress only an up-or-down vote; however, this argument overlooks TPA’s clear negotiating objectives and requirements for regular consultation. Many of those members may ultimately support the TPP deal because of the benefits it provides their home districts. On the other hand, the final resolution of specific issues – including a rumored carve-out that would prevent tobacco companies from seeking damages for anti-tobacco laws- – could sway Member support either way. Ultimately, the as-of-yet unreleased details of the agreement will decide Member support.
The timing for Congress’ vote on the agreement remains unclear. The Administration may wish to see the bill move through Capitol Hill as soon as possible, to clinch a major tenant of President Obama’s economic and foreign policy legacies. However, trade deals face a difficult road during election years, and there is only a short window between the busiest time in the primary schedule and the presidential nominating conventions in July. While some would argue the President should wait until the lame duck session, leaving the TPP in limbo until next November could provide its opponents too much time to undermine support. Ultimately, stakeholders may seek to influence the final deal through additional side agreements and through TPP’s implementing legislation in the United States, leaving opportunities for interested parties to still make an impact.
Please contact TradeTalk@squirepb.com with any questions.