By Candice Johnson at CWA
Washington – Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is looking increasingly unlikely. Last week brought news of growing congressional opposition to TPP, including from pro-fast track lawmakers; the popping of the trial balloon about passing TPP in the lame duck; and additional reminders that the 2016 political winds are blowing strongly against the TPP.
Last Friday, Inside U.S. Trade reported that Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the chair of the Transportation Committee, announced his opposition to the TPP. Rep. Shuster’s opposition is especially notable due to his vote in favor of fast track legislation last June (a vote which he called at the time, “a victory for conservatives”). The new article, titled, “Pennsylvania Republican Opposes TPP Despite Pro-TPA Vote Last Year,” notes:
“Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), who voted in favor of renewing Trade Promotion Authority last year, has publicly come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership because he believes it would not benefit American workers and manufacturers. ‘After reviewing TPP I do not believe that it is good for the people of the 9th Congressional District and for our country,’ he said in a statement released by his office. ‘We need to advance policies that benefit our American workers and manufacturers, and I don’t believe TPP will accomplish these goals.’”
Rep. Shuster’s announcement underscores how the congressional vote count doesn’t add up for passing the TPP. Last year, just five votes in the House would have flipped the outcome of the fast track vote, which narrowly passed. Now, pro-fast track voters such as Rep. Shuster and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) have announced their public opposition to TPP, while dozens of other pro-fast track voters have expressed concerns with the final provisions included in the TPP text.
Recently, leading TPP backers have floated the idea of passing the trade pact in the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections. However, last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) threw cold water on the notion of passing TPP in the lame duck. Senator McConnell said in an interview with AgriPulse, “The political environment to pass a trade bill is worse than any time in the time I have been in the Senate … It looks bleak for this year [to have a TPP vote].”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that Democratic presidential contender Secretary Hillary Clinton opposes a lame duck push, as she stated in writing, “I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”
Meanwhile, anti-TPP sentiment continues to predominate on the 2016 campaign trail, and all the remaining presidential candidates – Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump – have expressed their strong opposition to TPP.
In primary state exit poll after exit poll, both Republican and Democratic primary voters are expressing their belief that trade policy is taking away American jobs, instead of creating American jobs. A March 2016 Bloomberg Politics poll, conducted by Selzer & Co, found widespread opposition to our country’s recent approach to trade. As the Bloomberg article summarizing the poll noted, “Opposition to free trade is a unifying concept even in a deeply divided electorate, with almost two-thirds of Americans favoring more restrictions on imported goods instead of fewer. The latest Bloomberg Politics national poll shows the issue unites the country like few others, across lines of politics, race, gender, education, and income.”
According to Shane Larson, Legislative Director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA): “TPP’s passage already looked unlikely this year; last week may have killed its chances entirely. The opposition to TPP is broad, deep, bipartisan, and growing – and for good reason. Rejecting the TPP would be a victory for American jobs and American workers, and would be a giant step towards a more fair trade policy for the future. The message to elected officials and candidates is clear: if you want to stand with the American people, you must take a stand against the TPP.”