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TPP Opposition Increases, Some See the Deal at Risk

Though Republicans have generally erred on the side of free trade, that sentiment seems to have shifted—at least where the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is concerned.

Trade fears were evident among Republican voters in the Michigan and Mississippi primaries, a Wall Street Journal article noted, adding that some feel skepticism of slackened trade restrictions is widening.

The current leading contender for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump has been loudly opposed to TPP, and Democrats aren’t exactly rallying for the free trade deal either. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton isn’t in favor of it, nor is Bernie Sanders.

Beyond the primaries, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al.), has his own opinions on how to “undo the damage of TPP.”

“This election may be the last chance you have to retake control of your country,” he wrote in an op-ed for Greenville News last month. “Years of failed trade policies have eroded our manufacturing base and eliminated millions of jobs.”

Sessions said, speaking at a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C. Thursday, that the U.S. would be better off negotiating individual deals with Pacific Rim nations.

“We should do it bilaterally so if we have a dispute and they want to access the thing they want the most—our market—then we have got leverage,” the Australian Associated Press reported Sessions as saying. “We can push back a lot better than if we have to go through a 10 or 11-nation commission to vote on it.”

On the Democratic side, House Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), wrote in The Hill Tuesday that TPP is bad news for jobs, wages and the environment—and that the agreement ties the U.S. to countries that don’t value women’s rights, in light of International Women’s Day.

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“There are hundreds of reasons why the TPP is a mistake,” she wrote. “As the representative of Rochester, New York, I have never seen a trade agreement that benefited the American manufacturer or American worker. We were decimated by NAFTA and have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in my area since it went into effect, culminating in one of the highest poverty rates in the country. For that reason alone, we cannot afford another NAFTA-style trade agreement like the TPP.”

Even though TPP has been signed by the 12 member nations, the deal still needs congressional approval, and some feel the primaries could hold up an effort in Congress to consider the agreement. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told the Journal a vote on the deal would create a campaign issue and that if the leadership starts pushing TPP, it would be a negative for the deal.

The more opposition TPP gets, the more the Obama Administration will likely have to reiterate its benefits.

“Tuesday night’s results show how difficult it would be in this environment for congressional Republican leaders to seek passage this year of the TPP, a pact the White House sees as a linchpin to its commercial and foreign-policy strategy to compete with China—which isn’t a party to the deal—in the Pacific region,” the Journal reported.