On Monday, October 05, 2015, the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached a final agreement on the largest regional trade accord in history. Now, the treaty needs approval from Congress, and many analysts fear this could be the toughest fight of President Obama's final year in office.
The conclusion of the talks creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership followed years of negotiations. However, the deal still faces months of Congressional discussions, where some fear politics and mounting presidential campaigns full of populist anti-trade rhetoric could create strong opposition to the deal.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration sees this as a possible legacy-making achievement, worth the coming fight. The deal unites nations that represent two-fifths of the global economy, including Canada, Chile, Japan, Australia, the United States, and others. These nations would share a set of common rules regulating trans-Pacific commerce. This agreement represents a high point for the administration's agenda to expand exports and tighten bonds with fast-growing Asian economies.
According to a report by the New York Times, President Obama commented that, "When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can't let countries like China write the rules of the global economy … We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment."
The argument that the deal would act to hold back the rising tide of Chinese global commerce will form the foundation of the administration's press with Congress. To pass Congress, the President will need to win bipartisan support. Earlier this year, the President was able to use a similar strategy to win approval for the "fast-track trade authority," which will allow a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership without having to worry about the threat of amendments or filibuster designed to prevent its passage by a vocal minority.
The Agreement will end more than 18,000 tariffs on American exports to member nations. Members of the negotiating team believe this agreement could serve as the blueprint for future trade agreements, overhauling systems for dispute resolution, improving labor conditions, and raising environmental protection standards.
Congressional approval could take as long as until next April. Once President Obama presents the agreement to Congress with the notification that he intends to sign it, Congress will have 90 days to consider it, though Congress may require additional time to formally deliberate. However, many private groups have already expressed disapproval for the agreement, and it will likely face a similar uphill battle in Congress.