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Rules to Follow When Watching TPA-passage in Congress

Rules to Follow When Watching TPA-passage in Congress -- and for Would-be Diplomats

Veteran reporters watching international trade agreements pretzel their way through Congress are careful to observe certain well-trodden ‘rules’ .. thus avoiding the many-traps-for-young-players.

Rule Number One: the ‘Iceberg Rule.’ That is, if you keep watching them, they never seem to move .. look away for a while, and return sight has them solidly moved on. Second Rule: The 'Magician Rule’. This one dictates not to watch procedural sleight-of-hands -- here the 52-45 vote, not on the TPA itself (as many could be forgiven believing), simply when to start debatIng it. Many unsuspecting bodies indeed litter this trap-hole.

No, veteran reporters patiently watch the money hand -- the final vote on TPA itself -- not how and when it made its way to Congress’ floor. As it indeed it proceeded to do following President Obama (and Senator McConnell) making enough concessions to enough of the ten critical Democratic senators who joined Mr. Obama at the White House after the procedural vote stalled -- he needing only six of them to pass TPA in the Senate.

Indeed, the smart money looked to how the Senate Committee having jurisdiction on international trade matters voted when sending the TPA to the full senate. This naturally is the Senate Finance Committee, which on Wednesday, April 22, voted 20 to 6 to approve TPA.

No surprise, therefore, that the TPA countries having Embassies in Washington had long-standing, frequent-and in-depth meetings, both with Senate Finance Committee members themselves, and, of no-lesser-importance, their FTA staff.

Little-appreciated outside of Washnington is that, using coalition-building skills finely-honed when Director General of the consensus-driven WTO, Ambassador Moore swiflly made the N.Z. Embassy the TPP secretariat for all TPA country Embassy’s -- thus ensuring successful coordination with Senate Finance, and hence its positiveTPA vote.

But, most regrettably, harmony does not reign within this, otherwise peaceable, team. One not-unimportant TPA Washington Embassy, Canada, continues to privately bristle at very unfortunate statements publicly made by Minister Groser in a Reuters interview on Friday, April 7, right here in Washinton.

Immediately after noting the critical importance of Canada in concluding the TPP, Mr. Groser provocatively slammed its dairy industry as belonging “.. in the former Soviet Union.” Such incendiary public fighting words clearly do nothing to assist Canadian diplomats help N.Z. help itself.

More recently on 19 April, L . Ian MacDonald, a distinguished Canadian policy guru -- who previously served in the Canada's Washington Embassy -- while not disagreeing with the need for reform of Canada’s agricultural sector, observed that Mr. Groser’s public statements come in an election year, where the chances of “.. the Canadian government, any Canadian government.." agreeing to end supply management was: "Zero. Zilch. Nada.” Ouch!!

With new urban slang terms like ‘quaxing’ entering the Kiwi lexicon daily, a person close to the Canadian embassy shared that the term for 'counterproductive undiplomatic sledging’ swiftly getting legs in D.C. : “grossing.”

Mary Bates.
(Ms. Bates is a Delaware-based policy analyst.)


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