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American Shipper

Obama signals intent to move ahead on TPP

The Obama Administration indicated Friday that within 30 days, it plans to send to Congress the bill that would implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiated and signed by a dozen countries earlier this year.

   Despite a strong movement of opposition to free trade deals sweeping through both parties and Congress, the Obama Administration on Friday indicated that it plans to send to Congress within 30 days the bill that would implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiated and signed by a dozen countries earlier this year.
   In a draft Statement of Administrative Action, the administration laid out how it plans to implement its obligations under the TPP, how the bill will change or affect existing law, and why the implementing bill is necessary.
   Whether Congress will vote to ratify TPP remains an open question at a time when the Democratic Party, under pressure from its strong progressive wing, has moved away from supporting TPP and the traditionally pro-trade Republican Party has a presidential nominee who has made trade-bashing a central theme of his campaign. The anti-trade forces claim that free trade deals, such as NAFTA, have resulted in massive job losses in manufacturing and not produced promised benefits. The TPP would continue to make the U.S. vulnerable to foreign competition and doesn’t offer protections for the United States to renegotiate clauses if other parties don’t uphold their end of the deal, they argue.
   Hillary Clinton originally said TPP, which she helped get started as Secretary of State, would benefit American workers, but later said the final version did not include expected safeguards and that she had changed her position.
   No vote is expected before the November election, but supporters hold out hope that Congress will take up the matter during the lame duck session at the end of the year before a new Congress is sworn in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are believed to favor the TPP agreement, but whether they opt to bring up the deal for a vote will likely depend on the outcome of Senate and House elections. The Senate, in theory, could pass TPP without a lot of Democratic votes, but Republican senators may be reluctant to go against recent polls, which show more than 50 percent of Republicans opposing trade deals.
   An op-ed by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., in Sunday’s Detroit Free-Press, underscored that opposition to trade deals is based on income inequality gripping the nation and the feeling that corporations have benefited from trade deals at the expense of workers.
   The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives from top corporations, on Friday welcomed the administration’s notice of intent on TPP and urged Congress to approve it this year because it “will generate power economic opportunities for American exporters” through lower tariffs and other trade barriers.
   UPS CEO David Abney appeared on CNBC’s “Squakbox” show Monday morning and said TPP could increase U.S. exports by 20 percent, while cutting tariffs and customs red tape.
   “It [also] opens up markets to U.S. companies, especially those small and mid-sized companies that have difficulty exporting under today’s complicated process,” he added.
   Abney expressed optimism that Congress would ultimately ratify the multilateral trade deal. “There’s a lot of support for trade, it just may not be as vocal as you hear from some other sources,” he said.
   Trade does create more jobs and income for American workers, but Abney acknowledged that some do get displaced by outsourcing.
   “We do not take that lightly. We are in full support of training programs, both public and private, to help these employees be prepared for 21st century jobs,” he said.
   TPP is the most modern trade deal with first-ever chapters devoted to small businesses and e-commerce, as well as more labor protections and health-and-safety protections, Abney said.

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