Barack Obama’s Late Lamented Trade Deal
President Barack Obama has atoned for the sin of not having an international trade policy during his first term by securing agreement on America’s most ambitious trade pact in two decades. Unfortunately, he could not have picked a worse time to move the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress. Republicans and Democrats are engaged in intraparty civil wars. TPP is fuelling the fire.
Mr Obama secured fast-track negotiating authority to finalise TPP thanks to Republican support in Congress; only 13 Senate Democrats, and 28 in the House of Representatives, voted for it . He will also rely on Republican votes to enact the deal. Negotiators would have been wise, then, to look after Republican constituencies as they finalised the pact.
Instead, TPP includes the most far-reaching labour and environmental provisions in any US trade deal — designed, it seems, to appease the protectionist constituencies of congressional Democrats. But American negotiators surrendered intellectual property rights of US pharmaceutical companies and exempted tobacco from legal protections afforded other industries, angering key Republicans. Politics is about building coalitions. But instead of adding votes in Congress for TPP, the president is losing them.