President Barack Obama has been given the go-ahead to fast-track a trade deal that would affect 40% of the world economy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a 12-country free-trade deal that would dwarf NAFTA, according to Politico.
What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
According to the White House, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is being created in part because 95% of customers for U.S. business are international. Negotiations for the partnership are between the U.S. and 11 other Asia-Pacific countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).
“Exports support more than 11 million jobs — and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages,” Obama said on the White House website. “Failing to seize new opportunities would be devastating not just for our businesses, but for our workers too.”
The end goal is “a trade agreement that will open markets, set high-standard trade rules, and address 21st-century issues in the global economy,” according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Obama discussed the deal in his State of the Union Address this year. “Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas,” Obama said. “Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules.”
While the objectives of the deal are available, many have raised concern about the transparency of an agreement that would affect U.S. labor.
How is it being “fast-tracked”?
The deal was always going to face scrutiny from labor groups and primarily Democrats, so it would be very easy for its approval to get stalled in the legislature. But Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) agreed on a deal that gives Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, without allowing lawmakers the chance to amend it.
To appease Wyden, it was added that bill would make any final trade agreement open to public comment for 60 days before the president signs it, and up to four months before Congress votes. After that, a 60-vote majority in the Senate could open the deal to amendment if there is a perceived failure to meet the objectives for labor, environmental, and human rights standards.
But of course many are opposed to fast-tracking such a monumental agreement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has expressed staunch opposition to it, joining in on an anti-TPP rally in Washington last week. “We’re here today to fight,” she said to a crowd of about 1,200 people, according to Politico. “We are here to fight. Are you ready to fight?”
According to the New York Times, this is “the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994,” an agreement which faced a lot of scrutiny from Democratic constituencies.