It appears the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping free trade deal that would link the U.S. with 11 Pacific Rim nations, is on its deathbed. The deal, which President Obama hoped would be part of his legacy, was slammed by President-elect Donald Trump during the election campaign, and Republicans made it clear they wouldn't consider it during the lame duck session.
The TPP, which had been championed by Republicans just a year ago, fell victim to a wave of opposition to globalization and free trade agreements that became a rallying cry during the presidential campaign. Trump calls the TPP a "disaster," and even Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton denounced the deal, despite fully backing it while she was secretary of state.
The TPP was the center point of the Obama administration's so-called "pivot" to Asia, a strategy which would solidify economic, security and diplomatic relations with allies in the region. The deal would have eliminated thousands of tariffs and help set up rigid standards for things like copyright protections and intellectual property rights. The free trade agreement also was seen as a counterweight to a rising China. Analysts say the demise of the TPP could clear the way for China's similar trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Analysts tell NPR that the Trump administration still will try to build strong relations with Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Taiwan — though it would be on bilateral, rather than multilateral bases. And they say it would include a more robust security and military aspect than the TPP imagined — especially in the South China Sea, where Beijing has claimed broad territorial rights.
As Reuters reports, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says, "We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it's up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward."
The USTR statement follows a Twitter message on Friday from Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, that the administration was giving up on a lame-duck TPP vote.
"Various credible sources tell me that Obama will NOT try to pass the TPP in lame duck," Bernstein tweeted. "Not unexpected, but there it is..."