Obama Reaches Long Sought Pacific Trade Deal

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After years of negotiating, President Barack Obama and 11 other pacific nations Monday agreed to a landmark international trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Negotiations began in 2010 and by the end included a total of 12 countries. At roughly 39 percent of the world’s GDP, it is the largest regional trade deal in history. Despite the deal still having to pass Congress, it could become a huge victory for Obama who has had to fight his fellow Democrats and labor unions to accomplish it.

The trade deal would gradually end thousands of import tariffs and other international trade barriers. It would also establish uniform rules for intellectual property, environment protections and open internet access, even in communist Vietnam, The New York Times reports.

It will face significant opposition in Congress with most Democrats and many Republicans opposing it. With the passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the trade deal has already managed to overcome a major challenge. Also known as fast-track, it was passed by Congress in June after a bitter fight in both the House and Senate. Fast-track allows the president to make trade deals with a straight up or down vote without amendment or filibuster.

TPP expands upon the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement which was made between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, according to The Australian government. P4 went into force in 2006. The deal was designed to be a path to trade liberalization among Asia-Pacific countries.

Opponents have compared the deal to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which they claim resulted in many American jobs being lost. Obama has argued, according to The Washington Post, that TPP could help fix many of the problems NAFTA caused.

The trade talks have caused a considerable rift between Obama and Democrat lawmakers. Critics have noted concern that the deal will end up benefiting corporations as the expense of workers and the environment. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have been among those more adamantly opposed to the deal. Reluctance by Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton to oppose the deal has put her at odds with labor unions.

The White House has argued on numerous occasions that the deal will help American workers. During a recent press call, Obama also countered critics who say the deal is being done in secret to mislead people by arguing the parts that haven’t been released are not finalized and therefore don’t actually exist yet.

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