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By Maeve Allsup
June 21 — It’s crunch time for business leaders and U.S. companies hoping for congressional approval of the trans-Pacific trade agreement by the end of the year.
“There is a strong view that getting TPP done this year is absolutely critical,” said Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). And regardless of the outcome of November’s presidential election, it is unlikely that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be high on the agenda when a new president takes office and a new Congress convenes in January, she said.
Sarah Thorn, senior director of federal government relations for Walmart, said she hopes there will be a vote in the lame duck session and is confident that “we will see accelerated activities this fall,” when there is a more pressing timeline.
While U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has said the administration has made “great strides” in building support for the TPP, it continues to face headwinds in Congress (115 ITD, 6/15/16).
Key lawmakers, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), are demanding changes in several areas of the agreement, including the length of protections for biologic pharmaceuticals, financial services data localization and investor protections for tobacco products.
In addition, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees in the 2016 presidential contest, have pledged to redo or scrap the agreement entirely.
In a June 16 letter to Obama and congressional leaders, business groups asked for a stronger commitment to ensuring the Trans-Pacific Partnership is passed by the end of the year.
Business Roundtable President John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers President and Chief Executive Officer Jay Timmons and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue called for Congress and the administration to work with the business community to get TPP passed as soon as possible.
“We urge you to redouble efforts and forge a path forward to approve the TPP this year,” they wrote. “If the TPP is not approved this year, the United States will jeopardize a huge opportunity for U.S. growth, jobs, and leadership,” they warned.
Several of the U.S.’s largest companies have taken public positions in support of the TPP and have said they are working closely with Congress to get it passed.
“Trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are beginning to recognize the Internet’s transformative impact on trade,” Google said in a June 10 post on its Public Policy blog. “We will continue to advocate for process reforms, including the opportunity for all stakeholders to have a meaningful opportunity for input into trade negotiations.”
Google was joined in its support of the TPP by fellow members of the Internet Association, which released a statement March 30 affirming that the “TPP recognizes the Internet as an essential American export,” and that it is “an important step forward for the Internet sector that accounts for six percent of the GDP and nearly 3 million American jobs.” Other members of the association include Amazon.com, Facebook, Twitter and Uber.
“Many countries are much more active than the U.S.,” Dempsey said, referring to negotiating international trade deals. “Every time they put an agreement into force, we lose out.”
Dempsey pointed to the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement as an example of potential loss for the U.S., expressing concerns that if it goes into action before TPP is passed “our manufacturers will be losing opportunities.” Dempsey recalled a similar situation when President George W. Bush’s trade agreement with South Korea remained unratified for two years, allowing the EU to institute their own agreement with the Asian nation. That resulted in loss for the U.S., she said (34 ITD, 2/22/12).
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