Ryan leaves open possibility of a vote on Pacific trade deal this year

Ryan leaves open possibility of a vote on Pacific trade deal this year
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE is leaving open the chance that Congress can vote on a sweeping Pacific Rim trade agreement this year even with both presumptive presidential nominees vigorously opposing the deal.

The Wisconsin Republican said he doesn’t know whether Congress can approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement between the United States and 11 others nations, because the White House still has to address a series of lawmakers' concerns before a vote can take place.


“The provisions as they are drafted now, I don’t think are ready to go," Ryan told NPR in an interview on Friday. 

President Obama will have to "go back and fix a number of the things that are in this agreement before it can be ready to be considered," he said.

Both Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE and Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE oppose the TPP, creating a difficult environment on Capitol Hill to consider the deal before Obama leaves office.

Ryan and Trump don’t see eye to eye on trade policy, but in this latest interview, the House Republican leader tried to find some common ground with the man he has endorsed for the presidency.

He and Trump have discussed trade and both agree on the overarching concept that the United States should only enter into high quality global agreements.

"The fact that he [Trump] says he wants trade agreements, just good ones, I think tells me that he’s not against getting trade agreements. It's just the quality of the trade agreements he wants to get," Ryan said.  

"And that’s fantastic. I want to go get trade agreements, because if America walls itself up, if we address sort of an economic fortress America, we will lose," he said. 

Ryan was one of the architects of the trade promotion authority legislation that would allow the TPP and any other trade deals over the next few years to go through Congress without any amendments. 

As for the TPP, Trump has said he would either renegotiate the Pacific agreement or withdraw the United States, a move that would kill a deal that Obama administration officials have touted as a playing a crucial strategic, political and economic role in the Pacific Rim. 

"If we stand still on trade and do nothing, then Europe, China, and the rest will go around the world and get better trade agreements and freeze us out of those markets that we’re already in today," Ryan said. 

What that means for the future of TPP, especially now with Trump choosing a pro-trade running mate in former House lawmaker and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, remains to be seen. 

Republicans left any mention of the TPP out of the policy platform they plan to adopt at next week's national convention in Cleveland.

But Ryan didn't hesitate to once again throw cold water on Trump’s calls to significantly raise tariffs on countries like China as punishment for issues such as currency manipulation.

“I’ve been pretty clear about this — I think massive across-the-board tariff increases basically just raise the prices on consumers, start trade wars,” Ryan said.

Trump has wielded Clinton's previous support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and TPP against her in an effort to win over voters across the Rust Belt. 

But during his tenure in the House, Pence has supported trade deals, including the TPP and the NAFTA, as well as the three agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea passed by Congress in 2011.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) quickly called on Pence to convince Trump to support the TPP and push for expanded trade instead of closing borders. 

“We hope Gov. Pence, who has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will persuade his running mate that expanded trade will make America even greater,” wrote Jay Timmons, NAM president and CEO, in a Friday blog post.

Trump has said that the TPP would be a "death blow" to U.S. manufacturing. 

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the TPP's chances of getting a vote this year look "pretty slim" considering the harsh anti-trade rhetoric from the presidential campaigns.

Lawmakers have complained about a tobacco provision in the TPP and the length of patent protections for high-tech medicines. 

Earlier this week, the Obama administration and the financial services sector reached an agreement on how data flows across borders, giving the president an influential ally on the TPP.

Clinton, like many Democrats on Capitol Hill, is calling congressional leaders to punt the TPP to next year and avoid any votes in the lame-duck session. 

Despite all the uncertainty, the White House, including U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE is sounding an optimistic tone on the prospects that the TPP can get done this year as they tackle lawmakers' concerns while Clinton and Trump blast U.S. trade policies.

“Trade agreements have become a scapegoat for much of what else is going on in the economy, a vessel into which people pour their legitimate economic anxieties that are largely caused by other factors,” Froman said on Thursday.

There is no way to put the "globalization genie back in the bottle," he said. 

In regular visits with rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill, he said, he is getting positive feedback and is confident that the deal will be approved, which would define Obama's legacy on trade. 

“The question is whether we are going to be able deliver on the commitments we have made to our partners in the region or whether we are going to cede that ground to China."