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TPPA deal should not be possible without US “Fast Track”

22 February 2014

For immediate release

Rationally, a TPPA deal should not be possible without US “Fast Track”

There is strong disagreement between the twelve parties negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement about whether a deal can be struck without the US President having fast-track authority, otherwise known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), according to Professor Jane Kelsey, who is in Singapore during this week’s meeting of TPPA ministers.

‘No Fast Track means the Congress can pick the deal apart, keeping the bits favourable to US interests, rejecting concessions they don't like, and demanding that TPPA countries give more’, she explained.

‘There is such disagreement among ministers that many journalists here are asking how ministers could contemplate making decisions this week, let alone starting trade-offs’.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman himself was quoted in the Washington Post saying ‘You can’t negotiate (trade deals) with our partners and you can’t implement (them) here in the United States if you don’t have TPA.’

Malaysia’s trade minister said in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday that a deal without fast-track was unthinkable. Ambassadors to the US from Japan and Vietnam said the same in Washington.

There is no prospect of fast-track this year, if at all. A bill was introduced in January, but has remained stalled. Senate Majority LeaderHarry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are both opposed to advancing it through Congress. Reid decides what legislation gets debated in the Senate, when. Pelosi is crucial to support in the House.

Vice President Joe Biden told House Democrats in a closed-door retreat that he understood why they would not grant Obama fast-track for deals with Asia and Europe.

Rank and file Democrats are concerned about a backlash over fast-track and the TPPA at the elections for the House of Representatives in November. Recent polling shows 62% of voters oppose fast track, with 43% strongly opposed; other surveys show 87% of Republicans opposed to fast-track.

‘The idea that the other 11 governments might strike a deal with the US in such circumstances is bizarre’, Kelsey said.

Several weeks ago New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key conceded that Obama might not get fast track or even be able to get a final deal through Congress, but nevertheless urged an early conclusion to the deal.

‘Making decisions that assume the US can deliver without fast-track smacks of desperation to strike a deal, irrespective of the content. There is too much at stake for Key and Groser to be so cavalier. New Zealand deserves a responsible government to be truly responsible’, Kelsey said.

ENDS

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