US Congress Sinks Fast Track, TPP

It could still rear its ugly head but for now, US Congress voted down a package of bills that would have given the White House "Fast Track" authority. Without it, there is no way other countries will engage in serious negotiations with the US about trade. I watched the debate live and followed the live blogging, it was a great show. Having followed the TPP discussions closely, including Wikileaks and heard arguments for and against, it feels like a relief - for now.

Japan and other countries need to have much more discussion about these massive trade negotiations and think hard about the impact on people's lives. But for now, the American "Asian Pivot" has largely failed. Not much is expected to happen during the rest of President Obama's term, and it will take time before another president can regain the momentum. Which is a good thing, as far as I am concerned!


House casts gloom over Obama trade agenda

June 12, 2015

A black cloud hangs over President Barack Obama’s trade agenda following the House’s failure on Friday to approve a “fast-track” trade bill needed to conclude a massive Asia-Pacific trade agreement and a raft of other trade deals.

Unless Obama and House Republicans can quickly recover from the setback, it could squelch chances of reaching any new trade agreements “for the rest of this administration and possibly for at least a good part of the next administration,” said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The House actually went on record with a 219-211 vote in favor of the trade promotion authority bill, with 28 Democrats joining 191 Republicans in support. But the vote was symbolic because members overwhelmingly rejected a related move to renew the trade adjustment assistance program to help workers who have lost their jobs because of trade competition. Republican leaders structured the votes in a way that both measures had to be approved to advance the combined legislation.

U.S. union groups made the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact with Japan, Vietnam and nine other countries in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region public enemy No. 1 in their effort to defeat the fast-track trade bill. But today’s action also endangers trade talks with Europe, negotiations aimed at eliminating tariffs on environmentally friendly goods and promising recent efforts to revive long-stalled world trade talks.

Washington Post:

Obama-backed trade bill fails in the House

June 12, 2015

President Obama suffered a major defeat to his Pacific Rim free trade initiative Friday as House Democrats helped derail a key presidential priority despite his last-minute, personal plea on Capitol Hill.

The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that Congress would grant Obama fast-track trade authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

“I will be voting to slow down fast-track,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor moments before the vote, after keeping her intentions private for months. “Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers.”

The dramatic defeat could sink the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping free trade and regulatory pact that Obama has called central to his economic agenda at home and his foreign policy strategy in Asia. Obama’s loss came after a months-long lobbying blitz in which the president invested significant personal credibility and political capital.

Republican leaders, who had backed the president’s trade initiative, pleaded with their colleagues to support the deal or risk watching the United States lose economic ground in Asia.

“The world is watching us right now,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said before the vote.


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