Major trade group supports TPP

A major trade group said Tuesday that it is supporting a massive Asia-Pacific trade agreement, which Congress could consider next year.

The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) said it is encouraged by talks between lawmakers and the Obama administration aimed at making improvements to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that will improve its chances of passage on Capitol Hill. 

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“We are encouraged by discussions that are underway between Congress and the administration to address provisions in the agreement in order to further improve trade and investment liberalization and strengthen the system of international trade and investment disciplines and procedures, including dispute settlement, for all of American business," the group said in a statement.

"Early resolution of areas for improvement identified by the business community will speed approval by Congress in 2016."

Powerful business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have yet to take a stance on the TPP as they pore over the massive deal. Support from those two groups, among others, will play a crucial role in whether Congress will pass the trade deal. 

A pro-trade House Republican recently told The Hill he is worried about the TPP's chances to pass over tobacco and pharmaceutical provisions inserted into the agreement. 

U.S. trade officials are arguing that tobacco provisions are narrowly focused on health issues for manufactured products and won't affect the sale of tobacco. 

Still, lawmakers have expressed uneasiness about the inclusion of the language, which they say could set a bad precedent for future agreements. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah), among others, has expressed concern that high-tech biologics medicines will receive only eight years of data exclusivity, less than the 12-year standard in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Schumer briefs Democrats on impeachment trial 'mechanics' Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Ky.) has suggested that the trade deal won't receive a vote until after the 2016 elections or even later. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDuncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard MORE (R-Wis.), on the other hand, has said that he would like to vote on the agreement as soon as possible, but that he must make sure the TPP lives up to the standards set by Congress. 

President Obama said last week in his year-end address that trade and the TPP is a top legislative priority heading into his final year in office. 

Overall, the NFTC said that the 12-nation TPP has the potential to serve as a major step forward in establishing rules-based global trade that will provide greater access to foreign markets. 

“It is imperative that TPP provide very high standards, comparable to those which business enjoys in the United States, so this agreement can serve as a strong foundation for other trade agreements going forward," the group said. 

 “The NFTC believes this path will serve the interests of American workers, as well as businesses of every size in industry, services and agriculture.”