After The 'Maui Meltdown', TPP Has Missed A Key Deadline That Probably Means It's Doomed Whatever Is Now Agreed
from the your-time-is-up dept
In what is being called the "Maui Meltdown" by some, the TPP ministerial talks in Hawaii last week failed to produce the agreement that some hoped for, and many more expected. That's despite the fact that it was billed as definitely the last round. The New York Times has a good summary of the key problems that need to be solved to achieve that elusive final deal:
Tokyo was ready to extend major concessions on American truck tariffs but was blocked by Mexico, which wanted less competition for its own trucks in the United States market.
It's not yet clear when all the negotiators will meet for yet another definitely final round -- some reports speak of one this month, others of a November meeting -- but it's already emerged that sectoral talks are taking place in an attempt to hammer out deals in the areas where problems remain. But an analysis from Public Citizen suggests that it may not matter: it may already be too late for TPP.
Canada held firm on protecting its politically sensitive dairy market ahead of elections in October, but for New Zealand, a tiny country with huge dairy exports, that was unacceptable.
And virtually all of the parties hated American protections of pharmaceutical firms, but a compromise on that issue could cost the support of Republicans in Congress.
Assuming the quickest timeline conceivable under the Fast Track rules, and that somehow a required International Trade Commission (ITC) report on TPP impacts could be completed faster than has ever occurred for past pacts, a TPP vote could take place about four and one half months after Congress is given notice of intent to sign a deal. Thus, negotiations must conclude at the July 28-31 TPP ministerial and a text must be ready for notice of intent to sign by August 1. That text must be publicly posted on August 31. This would allow for a vote the week of December 14. After that, Congress goes on recess and a vote would roll to 2016.
Public Citizen's analysis is detailed -- it runs to several pages -- and errs on the side of assuming the US government can push TPP through the system faster than anything comparable before it. And yet even on that generous assumption, the key deadline -- August 1 -- has not been met, which means that the TPP vote is almost certain to take place in 2016. Here's why that's important:
The political costs of an unpopular "yes" vote for the TPP will escalate if voting rolls into the 2016 presidential election year. Already Democratic and GOP presidential candidates have begun attacking the TPP and their public criticism is generating public attention on the pact’s potential threats of job loss and more. A 2016 TPP vote also would increase the risk that voters could punish those who vote "yes" on the TPP during the November 2016 congressional election.
Every passing day pushes any eventual TPP vote further into 2016, and diminishes the likelihood that it will be successful. The talks will continue, and agreement on the outstanding problematic areas may even be reached, but perhaps it no longer matters.