On June 12, the House derailed legislation that would have given President Obama authority to negotiate, with limited interference from Congress, a trade deal that will potentially govern 40 percent of U.S. imports and exports.
The Trade Act of 2015 [also referred to as “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA) and sometimes “fast-track trade authority”] passed in the Senate May 22 on a 62-37 vote. On June 12, House leadership voted on the Senate’s bill in two parts, splitting the votes between TPA and another measure, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The House passed TPA on a mostly party-line vote of 219-211, with 28 Democrats voting in favor. However, given significant pressure from labor unions who strongly oppose the measure, many Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the TAA, which led to its failure with a vote of 126-302. While today’s vote was a disappointment to those strongly in support of the TPA, many Republican and Democratic members remain committed to enacting both the TAA and the TPA. It is possible the measures could be considered as early as June 15, though the path forward remains unclear.
Enactment of the package of bills would have invigorated negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement designed to promote international trade and investment by lowering tariffs, harmonizing regulations, and eliminating Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to trade. The TPP will initially cover 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Collectively these countries represent 40 percent of the global economy. The treaty also establishes mechanisms for other countries to join in the future.
The TPP will create new rules governing cross-border trade, including competition, customs duties, market access, rules of origin, and trade disputes. Special arbitration provisions may allow private companies to sue foreign governments. The TPP will govern foreign exports, imports, and investment implicating several major sectors of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing, intellectual property, textiles and apparel, telecommunications, agriculture and others. It will also cover labor, employment, and environmental issues.