TPP Moves Forward on Administrative Action, Still Little Chance of a Vote

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The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative recently sent to Congress a draft Statement of Administration Action for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a procedural step necessary before a draft implementing bill is sent to Congress.

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According to the fast-track law, the trade rep must send a draft SAA to Congress at least 30 days before it submits a draft implementing bill, but that does not mean it will be submitted in that timeframe, that’s just merely the minimum before a bill can be sent. The trade rep sent notification August 12th.

The White House is unlikely send such a bill, though, amid the rhetoric of a presidential campaign in which both major party nominees have depicted free trade deals as massive job killers and both, including former TPP supporter Hillary Clinton, have come out against TPP. Most observers agree that this is a procedural move designed to preserve the ability to send a TPP bill for a vote after the election in congress’ lame-duck session.

Clinton Flips on TPP, Might Flip Back

While Clinton’s friend, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D.) has said Clinton will flip again on TPP and support it once the election is over, and most polls do show Clinton ahead of republican rival Donald Trump, Clinton assured primary voters that she is now against TPP, particularly those primary voters that supporter Bernie Sanders (D. Vt.) and not her in the primaries.

If the democrats were to win the Senate and Clinton the presidency it would be a very bitter pill for Sanders supporters to swallow to immediately be treated to a lame-duck vote on TPP so that it could be signed by Obama before Clinton wins. Such a scenario could also play out if Trump wins and republicans lose one or both houses of congress and Obama attempts to ram the legislation through with favors and patronage for the vanquished senators and congressmen, many of whom don’t like Trump, on both sides of the aisle.

Yet another scenario would allow the republicans to keep both houses of congress and those free-trade-loving republicans to vote and pass the bill before staunchly anti-TPPer Trump takes office, likely with a wave of like-minded republicans taking the spots of primary losers.

What Does This Have to do With TPP?

So, this procedural maneuver has very little to do with TPP and everything to do with its dwindling group of supporters keeping their options open. Clinton has moved away from supporting it because of the success of both Sanders and Trump at the polls and there’s little chance she’ll change that rhetoric before November. Trump would have to go back on more than a year of condemnation to support TPP in anyway but stranger things have happened.

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TPP is a trade deal with 11 other nations but only a fifth of it actually deals with trade. Of TPP’s 30 chapters, six deal with traditional trade issues. If TPP is to eventually pass, a massive shift in public opinion on both sides of the aisle will be necessary and, no matter who wins the election, it’s hard to imagine any lame-duck vote on such a major piece of policy doing anything but angering and electorate that has shown both parties that it’s fed up with such tricks.

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story said that Representative Tim Huelskamp (R. Kansas) supported TPP. He did not. He supported trade promotion authority (TPA). We regret the error.

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