Trans-Pacific Partnership Faces Hurdles, Extended Implementation Timeframe
After more than five years of negotiations produced a final Trans-Pacific Partnership this week, supporters now face the task of putting the free trade agreement among a dozen Pacific Rim countries into effect. In the U.S., there are already indications that securing congressional approval could be a tough job. In addition, timeframes within U.S. law and the TPP itself could delay full implementation for years.
Under the trade promotion authority law passed by Congress this summer, the first step in implementing a trade agreement is for the president to notify lawmakers of his intent to sign it. For TPP, that could take place in a matter of weeks, once the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has completed a thorough legal review of the text.
Once the notification is submitted, the president must wait 90 days to sign the agreement; for TPP, that would put signing as early as mid-January. During this time several other requirements are likely to be met, including publishing the text of the agreement (which must be done at least 60 days before the agreement is signed) on the USTR website and submitting reports and reviews on topics such as the agreement’s environmental and labor impacts.
After the agreement is signed there will be at least another 30 days before the president can submit legislation to implement it, which must occur on a date when both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in session. For TPP, this could be as early as mid-February. A number of supporting documents must be submitted with the draft bill, including an explanation of how it will change existing law and statements on how the agreement meets TPA objectives and serves the interests of U.S. commerce.
One additional consideration is a report on the anticipated economic impact of the TPP from the International Trade Commission, which will have 105 days from the date the agreement is signed to submit the report to Congress. If the ITC takes the full allotted time, Congress would not be able to begin consideration of the TPP legislation until mid-March.
The House and Senate would then have up to 90 legislative (not calendar) days to either approve or reject that bill. This means a final congressional vote could come as early as April or as late as December of 2016. The presidential and congressional elections next November could further affect the timing.
Finally, assuming the implementing legislation is approved – which, given initial reactions from a wide range of lawmakers from both parties concerned about specific provisions that did or did not make it into the final agreement, is not assured – it would likely be another year or two before TPP provisions start taking effect. While some tariffs would be eliminated right away, others will only be phased out over time. Details on this process are expected to be made public in the coming weeks and could further affect lawmakers’ decisions on whether or not to support the agreement.