President Obama’s signature trade deal is in danger of stalling indefinitely.
In what was supposed to be the centerpiece of a strategic pivot to south-east Asia, the populist flavor of the 2016 presidential campaign greatly reduces the chances that Congress will pass the Pacific trade agreement either after the November election or during the next administration.
Republican nominee Donald Trump has voiced his opposition to the trade deal since the start of his campaign, calling the TPP “totally insane.” “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country,” he said. “It’s a harsh word, but it’s true.” Trump vowed to cancel the trade deal if elected.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s position on the trade deal is a little more nuanced. Not very long ago, Clinton called the deal, “the gold standard in trade agreements.” Clinton hastily changed her position on the trade deal as the Democratic primary heated up and insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders gained ground by constantly slamming her for supporting job-killing trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the TPP.
Just last week, Clinton’s close confidant and current Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, said that Clinton will support the TPP if elected. The governor has since backtracked on those comments, and top aides to Clinton have assured voters that she is opposed to the TPP and will not support it if elected president.
While Mike Pence and Tim Kaine previously supported aspects of the TPP, they both now oppose. Kaine voted for fast track authority for trade deals like the TPP, but it is unclear if he would actually vote for the final agreement. Mike Pence is a free-trade proponent, and voiced his support for trade deals ranging from NAFTA to the TPP. Pence urged the swift adoption of the TPP, and only recently has he begun to question the wisdom of such trade deals.
Republican Congressional leaders say that approval appears unlikely this year, with House Speaker Paul Ryan commenting last week that, “the votes aren’t there.” Widespread opposition to the TPP among party leadership on both sides of the aisle marks a steep reversal in attitudes towards the deal.
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