The Trans-Pacific Partnership is back in the news and back as a 2016 campaign issue for both parties as the final touches on the deal have been worked out.
The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.
But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr. Obama spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal. Administration officials have repeatedly pressed their contention that the partnership would build a bulwark against China’s economic influence, and allow the United States and its allies — not Beijing — to set the standards for Pacific commerce.
The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.
Several potentially deal-breaking disputes kept the ministers talking through the weekend and forced them repeatedly to reschedule the promised Sunday announcement of the deal into the evening and beyond. Final compromises covered commercial protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, more open markets for dairy products and sugar, and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America.
The question for the assembled is this: does this deal pass Congress?
Lot of factors in play here: Obama’s legacy, Republicans who want this deal passed despite giving Obama a win, Democrats who want this deal scrapped, the 2016 candidates all over the map on this, corporate interests, environmental interests, unions, you name it, everyone has a stake in this deal.
But having gotten this far and the final international deal now done, does this deal pass from sheer inertia of history or does the politics of 2016 mean it can’t?