Negotiators reach Pacific trade deal in major Obama victory
U.S. trade negotiators reached a historic agreement with 11 other nations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal, marking a major victory for President Obama.
Trade ministers announced Monday morning that they have hammered out a deal resolving the final complex and thorny issues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after nearly six years of talks.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who announced the deal for the 12 nations, said the agreement will set a global standard that “helps define rules of the road” for the Asia-Pacific region that will lead to more jobs and economic growth across the participating countries.
Froman said the completion of the agreement is the first step in the process to implement the deal and he will begin consultations with Congress to find the best path forward when he returns to Washington on Monday afternoon.
He said the deal is a “2016 issue for Congress to consider.”
Before reaching Capitol Hill, the deal will go under the public microscope for about 90 days before an agreement is signed.
Amid early congressional criticism, Froman said he is looking forward to working with Congress to explain the deal.
“We’re confident that people will see this as a very strong deal,” he said.
Negotiators took more than five days in Atlanta — three beyond the initial target — to put the final touches on the long-awaited TPP agreement, which covers 40 percent of the global economy. A scheduled Sunday evening press conference was delayed while the nations reviewed and then eventually signed off on the deal.
As evidence that trade ministers were determined to get a deal done, Tim Groser, New Zealand’s trade minister, said talks on dairy rules didn’t wrap up until 5 a.m.
The deal is expected to lower trade barriers and provide greater market access for U.S. exporters across a broad array of sectors, including beef and autos.
The TPP will also set up a global framework of rules covering areas, from financial services and medicines to intellectual property, and new standards for labor and environmental protections.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb called the agreement “truly transformational” and one that will shape future trade deals throughout the 21st century. He said it is a “massive achievement” in reducing barriers and red tape for nations to increase and expand their trade and investment.
Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said the trade agreement sets the global standard for the 21st century that will promote and enhance economic growth and security in the region.
Completion of the pact sets the stage for another showdown in Congress, where the Obama administration will seek to quell lingering concerns from Republican and Democratic lawmakers amid the simmering 2016 race for the White House.
President Obama will have to convince his own party to support the deal, after most congressional Democrats opposed handing him fast-track authority on trade. The power — ultimately granted to Obama, in large part thanks to GOP backing of the deal — means Congress won’t have a chance to amend the deal before voting on it.
Republicans, meanwhile, warned during the talks that they would oppose the TPP if the Obama administration came back with language that targets certain sectors of the U.S. economy.
The deal will arrive on Capitol Hill for a vote early next year, a few months after a leadership shake-up in the GOP-controlled House, which could further complicate the deal’s passage.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent up a warning flare saying from what he has learned, the TPP deal “falls woefully short” of what can pass Congress.
“Over the next several days and months, I will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether our trade negotiators have diligently followed the law so that this trade agreement meets Congress’s criteria and increases opportunity for American businesses and workers,” Hatch said in a statement.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the United States should not settle for a mediocre deal that fails to set high-standard trade rules in the Asia-Pacific region for years to come.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that “only a good agreement — and one that meets congressional guidelines” set out in the trade promotion authority law “will be able to pass the House.”
“I am reserving judgment until I am able to review the final text and consult with my colleagues and my constituents,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said that he was pleased to hear reports that the deal reached includes, for the first time, an agreement to crack down on currency manipulation and new and enforceable labor rights obligations on countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.
“It’s now time for Congress and the public to examine the details of the TPP and assess whether it will advance the nation’s interests.”
Trade ministers said that a currency forum had been created to discuss global currency manipulation issues.
For Obama, the TPP is central to his pivot to the Asia-Pacific’s rapidly growing economies and slew of middle-class customers who exporters view as a boon to their businesses and reach outside of the U.S.
Business groups have been applying a full-court press for the deal’s completion while labor unions have pressed the White House to cinch up global labor standards and avoid the pitfalls of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which they argue led to a loss of jobs and wages for U.S. workers.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Monday: “We are disappointed that our negotiators rushed to conclude the TPP in Atlanta, given all the concerns that have been raised by American stakeholders and members of Congress.”
He said it appears “that many problematic concessions were made in order to finalize the deal.”
“We ask the Administration to release the text immediately, and urge legislators to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP.”
The United States is negotiating the TPP with 11 other nations — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
–This breaking news report was last updated at 10:44 a.m..