Obama’s trade deal faces stiff headwinds

Obama’s trade deal faces stiff headwinds

The White House’s announcement Monday of an international trade deal covering 40 percent of the world’s economy sets the stage for a bruising, months-long congressional battle that is already spilling into the 2016 presidential race.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations from Asia to Latin America, faces stiff headwinds in both parties.


The fiercest criticism comes from liberals, who have long complained that previous free trade deals burdened U.S. workers and that TPP is more of the same bad policy. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, underscored that sentiment, deriding the deal as “disastrous” and vowing to push his Senate colleagues to defeat it.

GOP presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE was similarly blunt, tweeting Monday afternoon that the accord was “a terrible deal.”

And while most Republicans voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the sweeping agreement, GOP votes for the TPP may be harder to come by.

House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have warned that provisions on tobacco, currency policy and high-tech medicines that fly in the face of congressional directives could lead them to oppose the long-awaited agreement. 

Within hours of the deal being struck in Atlanta, 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 said he was en route back to Washington, where he will lead the administration’s sales pitch to lawmakers who must approve the agreement.

“We’re confident that people will see this as a very strong deal,” he said. 

Leaders from the 12 nations in talks worked nonstop since Thursday to complete negotiations, which have been building for years, navigating several complex issues that had the potential to foil a final agreement. 

The last compromises covered patent protections for high-level drugs, opened markets for dairy and sugar, and set protections for the U.S. auto sector. 

By late Monday, however, it was clear that major obstacles to final approval exist across the political spectrum.

Labor unions and environmentalists, for instance, have argued the agreement favors big business over 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.” 

Concerns among U.S. businesses about currency manipulation in other nations are another major hurdle.

Ford Motor Company on Monday came out against the TPP, arguing that the deal doesn’t adequately address currency manipulation, which it said has hurt U.S. automakers. 

“This summer, U.S. lawmakers took unprecedented action to set a clear negotiating objective for addressing currency manipulation in all future trade deals,” said Ziad Ojakli, Ford’s vice president for government and community relations.

“The TPP fails to meet that test.”

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 TPP’s passage. 

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer tees up key Thursday vote on debt deal House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) said the TPP “demands intense scrutiny by Congress” and said the fast-track law signed by the president in June will provide an avenue for close examination. 

He said “serious concerns have been raised on a number of key issues” and the Senate will review the agreement in the months ahead to ensure it meets the high standards that Congress and the American public have demanded.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears MORE (R-Utah) went a step further, saying that, from what he has learned, the TPP “falls woefully short” of what can pass Congress. 

To get the deal through Congress, the president will have to convince the two dozen or so members of his own party who backed him on fast-track to stay with him; most congressional Democrats opposed handing him fast-track authority on trade. 

The power — ultimately granted to Obama in large part thanks to GOP backing — means Congress won’t have a chance to amend or filibuster the deal.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who opposed fast-track, said she is glad the deal is “going to pivot deeply into the presidential race”

“I hope we reach the point after a quarter century of suffering by the working class of this country in low-wage workers who have seen their jobs outsourced that it has ripened to a point that even now our presidential candidates — Sanders on the Democratic side and Donald Trump on the Republican side — are talking about trade and opposing these kinds of trade deals,” Kaptur said on a call with reporters on Monday. 

Collectively a group of House Democrats on the call urged all those in the presidential race to oppose the TPP. 

“Each one of our presidential candidates should be opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

The 11 other nations included in the deal — a top priority Obama wants to add to his legacy — are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.