More Problems in Washington

By | April 29, 2014

A note on problems in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The Obama administration still doesn’t have legal negotiating authority – called Trade Promotion Authority or “fast track” –  something only the Congress can provide. And Congress is so far NOT moving ahead with the required legislation.

Canadian officials keep saying “Don’t worry. Be happy. It’s just a formality”. I don’t believe that.

I’ve been saying for months that it doesn’t make sense to negotiate with the Americans when they haven’t got the green light from Congress.

We don’t even know if the light will be green or orange – or maybe even red.

Finally, official Washington is starting to admit the truth. Here is a report from World Trade On-Line posted yesterday. It’s a wake-up call.

 A senior adviser to President Obama last week publicly acknowledged that the administration is in a tough position because the lack of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) makes it hard to conclude ongoing trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while at the same time complicating TPA passage since members of Congress are reluctant to approve a bill without knowing the content of any future trade deals that would be covered.

 This was confirmed by Commerce Secretary Pritzker and Ag Secretary Vilsack in the same report. World Trade On-Line says that those comments contradict previous statements by Obama administration officials about the lack of TPA not being an obstacle in the TPP negotiations.

My view is that even if TPA is passed, it will likely not be until AFTER the mid-term US elections this fall. And my other prediction is that any TPA will require Congressional oversight over each step in the negotiations.

This would mean Canada and the other TPP countries are in effect negotiating with the Congress and not with the Obama administration.

The whole point of fast-track – going back to the 1970s – was to overcome that problem.