The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries were set to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Feb. 4 and a senior U.S. official has laid out a strategy for seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
After the TPP is signed, the U.S. International Trade Commission is expected to issue by mid-May a report on the agreement’s anticipated economic effects. At any time after that the White House will be able to submit legislation implementing the TPP to Congress, which would start the clock for House and Senate votes.
However, the complex politics of the agreement could push this step back. Most remaining presidential candidates, both Republican and Democrat, have spoken out against the TPP. Key Republican lawmakers, whose party is expected to provide most of the support for implementing legislation, have called for changes to specific provisions in the agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated Feb. 2 his recommendation to postpone a vote until after this November’s presidential and congressional elections.
Undeterred, the administration is pressing forward with a strategy aimed at moving the TPP through Congress sooner than later. Asserting that there are “real economic costs” to delay, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said this week that federal officials will be working to shore up congressional support in four ways: meetings and hearings with lawmakers and committees on the outcomes of TPP, providing additional details on enforcement, working directly with members who have raised specific concerns, and submitting reports detailing the full impact of the agreement. McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who have all expressed concerns with respect to specific TPP provisions, said they are willing to continue talking with administration officials on a way forward.