Put plainly, the U.S. presidential candidates don’t have warm fuzzy feels about the current Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Hillary Clinton said the deal didn’t meet her test, which considers whether TPP creates jobs, raises incomes and furthers our national security—to which she decided, it doesn’t.
“I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president,” she said.
Trump, who appears to be opposed to every major trade deal the U.S. has negotiated, but not the notion of trade itself, said, “We’re going to renegotiate trade deals. We’re going to have a lot of free trade. We’re going to have free trade, more free trade than we have right now. But we have horrible deals.”
Some had hoped the TPP might get signed during the lame duck session of Congress (Nov. 9 until the Dec. 16 adjournment) but that appears to be looking increasingly less likely, and the fate of the deal with the next president is all but clear.
Here’s what four experts had to say about where we stand on TPP post debate.
The debates have left TPP in an unusual situation—Julia K. Hughes
“Sadly, both presidential candidates are talking about trade and the global economy as only a negative for America,” Julia K. Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), said. “And they are ignoring the fact that trade is good for American families—offering consumers greater choice and better prices. This leaves TPP in an unusual situation.”
The lame duck session remains an option, albeit not an easy one, though if the congressional leadership believes they have the votes, then there’s still a chance to settle the deal this year, Hughes said.
“That will not be the end of the story, since the next president will need to take action to implement the agreement and put it into effect,” she said. “But once the election is over, both the administration and businesses will be counting voted to see if we can move ahead.”
As far as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), another up-in-the-air free trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with the EU, Hughes said neither candidate is likely to make it a top priority in their first 100 days.
“I do expect that the next president will include some trade policy and international agreements in their agenda. But the negative attacks during the campaign mean that it is likely to be later in their administration.”
Debate aside, TPP’s fate depends on the election—Nicole Bivens Collinson
“I think that the fate of the TPP may in large part be determined by the outcome of the election. Depending on who wins, it may influence the desire to possibly move the TPP in the lame duck or not,” said Nicole Bivens Collinson, president of international trade and government relations for trade law firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg.
Most of the decisions will rest with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Majority Leader of the Senate, Collinson explained. And even though he’s drawn a pretty clear line in the sand saying he doesn’t want to do TPP in the lame duck, some have said that could change.
“Depending on who you talk to on any given day, you’re going to get a different answer,” Collinson said.
Both candidates seem to be pro-trade, despite not being in favor of TPP in its current state.
“They’re just not for the deals that are negotiated now,” Collinson said, adding that she felt “very encouraged” about the outlook for trade following Wednesday’s debate.
The debate offered nothing novel on TPP—Steve Lamar
“Last night’s debate didn’t offer anything new when it comes to the difficult narrative that the candidates have been constructing on trade or TPP. All eyes still remain locked on the lame duck, and whether the Administration and congressional leaders can resolve lingering issues so they can schedule a vote on TPP,” Steve Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), said. “That said, TPP won’t enter into force until sometime after the next President takes office. For any FTA, there is usually a delay between the congressional vote and entry into force. That will definitely be the case with TPP, particularly with a new Administration eager to flex their trade muscles.”
Both candidates are punting their potential position as leader of the free world—Matt Priest
“My overall view on this entire campaign is the fact that there’s just a total lack of leadership on trade,” Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), said. “Neither candidate has been willing to publicly admit that trade is important to our economy and our strategic position.”
Our trading partners look to American leadership to solidify our partnerships, Priest said, and the fact that it’s not happening has proved frustrating for trade advocates.
“We’re all kind of scratching our heads about how you feel China’s a threat to our country but you’re not willing to pass TPP,” Priest said, adding that TPP would be necessary to neutralizing China in some regard.
If TPP doesn’t get passed, the world will question America’s leadership and commitment to trade, Priest said. China could then finalize its own rival TPP trade deal, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which would include all of APEC’s 21 member countries, and the U.S. won’t be a part of it.