Obama, Congress Butt Heads Over Push to Pass TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may not have a lot of signatories yet, but there’s already moves to streamline its ratification in some countries. In the US, Obama is pushing to have the TPP ratified before the end of the term. Meanwhile, Congressional leaders don’t see ratification being possible before Obama’s time is up.

The TPP was officially released back in early November. Ever since then, there have been numerous campaigns to try and push the “trade” deal through. This included public pushes to quash legitimate fears of the deal from TPP backers to political pressure to get countries to sign off on the trade deal as quickly as possible.

Part of that November release included a 90 day deadline by the US to sign off on the deal and send it to congress for ratification. So the final battle in the US will begin on February 3rd. This is before the Obama administration’s time is up. While that may sound like a cut and dry thing, news over the last month suggests that ratification before Obama is out of office is anything but a sure thing.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that TPP ratification won’t pass congress before the next election:

“It certainly shouldn’t come before the election. I don’t think so, and I have some serious problems with what I think it is,” McConnell said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post. “But I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”

While that sounds like it puts the brakes on TPP ratification for now, Obama and the White House still seem to be confident that ratification will happen before the next election:

“We continue to be optimistic that this is something that Congress can and should do in a timely fashion,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a White House briefing. “And we will work closely with Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell to get it done,” he said, referring to House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Perhaps the only sure thing for now is that President Obama, given his push for passage, is going to sign off on the trade deal. Whether ratification can take place by the deadline is currently cast into the murky waters of American politics.

While on the surface, this seems to be a US politics issue. Obama dealing with political gridlock is an all too common thing these days. Arguably, there is a whole lot more at stake than the never-ending feud between Republicans and the President. The US signing off and/or ratification of the TPP has major political implications for other countries. If the US signs off on the deal, that puts enormous political pressures on a number of other countries to follow suit. If the US ratifies the deal, that would also put pressure on other countries to follow suit. If one other country signs off and ratifies the deal, that could cause a cascading effect of political pressure on any country that holds out on the deal.

From the global political perspective, it could very well all be about pushing down the first domino. As unfortunate as it is, the fight to push back on the trade deal will have its epicenter located in the US. If the US falls in the fight against the TPP, containing the policy in the US would be extremely difficult.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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