The Senate passed “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), sending the measures to President Obama to sign into law. Passage of this first step in ObamaTrade almost certainly assures passage of the impending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has faced fierce opposition by a broad coalition of left and right special interest groups and lawmakers.
The Obama administration and its trading partners saw approval of fast-track negotiating power as a vital prerequisite. Countries like Japan and Australia refused to make the politically precarious compromises necessary to complete the trade deals until they knew that Congress could not amend the final agreement and ask for additional negotiations.
At the same time, the trade promotion bill, hashed out over months of arduous negotiations, adds new hurdles to completion. Under the legislation, the president may not even sign a final agreement for two months, and Congress cannot consider the deal for two additional months while the public gets its first complete look at the accord. That delay will most likely push any consideration of the Pacific accord well into the presidential election season, a difficult political environment in which to consider the largest trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement.
A separate bill bolstering trade enforcement rules — set for final passage in July — includes measures added late in the process to win conservative support, further complicating the president’s job. They include a provision prohibiting any trade agreement from forcing action by the United States on climate change and another forbidding trade accords to include provisions easing immigration and visa rules.
Only time will tell if the additional provisions added will prevent the worst case scenarios predicted by ObamaTrade opponents.
To the very end Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) led a heated opposition to ObamaTrade, warning that jobs would be sent overseas and various aspects of national sovereignty would be usurped by new international groups with the authority to rewrite laws without oversight.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined the previous four republican “nay” votes after he claimed that ObamaTrade was enmeshed in corrupt, backroom dealings. Fellow presidential candidate Rand Paul (KY-R) remained in the nay column after blistering comments prior to the previous vote on TPA.
32 Senate Democrats also voted nay, joined by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), an independent who is running for president as a Democrat.[New York Times] [Breitbart]