Obama gives up hopes to pass TPP before Trump’s swearing-in

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. © Kevin Lamarque
The Obama administration has given up on trying to push through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal in a lame-duck session as hopes for its last-minute approval, about which there was much speculation prior to the election, faded with During Trump’s victory.

"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 spokesman for US Trade Representative Matt McAlvanah said Friday.

President Barack Obama reportedly hoped have the deal approved by Congress before he turns over the White House to Trump. The post-election lame-duck session is set to start Monday, but it is unlikely that the 12-nation trade deal will be on the table.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that the TPP would not be considered in the lame-duck session or any time before the new Congress and President-elect Donald Trump are sworn in. 

"I think the president-elect made it pretty clear he was not in favor of the current agreement," McConnell said, implying that Trump would scrap the deal and would “negotiate a better” one.

Trump opposed the TPP throughout his campaign, prompting other Republicans to follow suit. He indicated his plan, in which there was no place for TPP, would include renegotiating the 22-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and much tougher trade stance with China.

Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-New York), who is expected to be the incoming Senate minority leader, made harsh remarks to trade leaders Wednesday, reportedly pronouncing the TPP “dead.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama and McConnell spoke after the election about the agenda of the lame-duck session. Earnest did not elaborate on whether TPP was on the list, but said Obama “does continue to believe that this is the best opportunity that the Congress has to take advantage of the benefits of a Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

“We've got a strong case to make with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we're going to encourage Republican leaders to take it up and pass it because of the enormous benefits that would accrue to American workers, American businesses and the broader US economy," he said.

With no hopes for the TPP to survive, Obama will have to discuss the situation with TPP participating nations when he attends the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week.

According to White House Deputy National Security Advisor Wally Adeyemo, Obama is expected to stress that the US would remain engaged in Asia regardless of the trade deal.

"In terms of the TPP agreement itself, Leader McConnell has spoken to that and it's something that he's going to work with the President-elect to figure out where they go in terms of trade agreements in the future," Adeyemo said. "But we continue to think that these types of deals make sense, simply because countries like China are not going to stop working on regional agreements."

The US already has trade agreements with many of the 12 participating nations, but the TPP would draw it closer to Japan, the world’s third-largest economy and a significant ally of Washington. Japan’s Lower House of parliament passed the deal Wednesday.