from the some-good-news... dept
Things are heating up around the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the trade agreement among many of the Pacific Rim countries that has tremendous problems. The US has been pushing very, very hard to get the deal signed and delivered by the end of the year. US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that he still believes an agreement can be made by the end of the year.
“I think the important thing to remember is that the reason we are in the TPP discussion is the same as the reasons Singapore is — same for Japan and the other countries are — that it is in each of our own interest for there to be high quality agreement that benefits each of us individually and all of us together collectively.
“And that is the reason why we are still optimistic that we can reach a successful conclusion of the TPP discussion this year.”
Of course, there are a number of indications that with some of the massive gaps between negotiating positions that still remain that it may be difficult to hammer out an agreement in time. But… it also might not matter much, because Congress may be slamming the brakes on the whole process. We just noted that a very large number of folks in Congress have told the White House that they’re very uncomfortable giving the USTR “trade promotion authority” or “fast track authority,” which would effectively have Congress giving up its Constitutionally defined role as the sole governmental branch that can “regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
In effect, without trade promotion authority, the USTR is negotiating without any real mandate. That is, the agreement itself is somewhat meaningless, because the USTR has no ability to commit the US to anything. Only Congress can do that, and it appears Congress is skeptical about giving up its Constitutional powers to the USTR — and, given what’s been seen in the leaked versions of the TPP (oh yeah, and the very fact that it had to be leaked in the first place) — it seems Congress has some very good reasons to be wary of the USTR having any more power than it currently does.
So it’s good to see that Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, has basically said that there’s almost no way Congress is giving the USTR trade promotion authority this year. Bizarrely, as the article notes, the Republicans seem overeager to support trade promotion authority, while it’s the Democrats who are effectively blocking it. Yes, you read that right. The Republicans in the House, who have been fighting President Obama on nearly everything, are eager to give up their own constitutional powers in Congress and hand them directly to the Obama White House, while it’s the President’s own party that is (rightfully) concerned about moving forward with such a plan.
For the life of me, I cannot see why Republicans would support such a thing. It appears that a bunch of highly paid lobbyists are going around pretending that TPP is actually a “free trade” agreement, and telling Republicans they should be in favor of free trade. But it’s not a free trade agreement at all (quite the opposite, actually). Maybe someone should explain to the Republicans that giving up their own sole power to regulate foreign commerce and handing it the White House, which has written a proposal designed to massively benefit traditional donors to Democratic candidates, isn’t the wisest of political strategies.