WASHINGTON — White House officials essentially confirmed Friday that the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pact is dead, bringing to a close one of the most contentious debates over a sweeping trade deal in history.
On a press call with reporters previewing President Obama’s upcoming trip to Greece, Germany and Peru, White House officials were asked if TPP is dead.
“In terms of the TPP agreement itself, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell has spoken to that and it’s something that he’s going to work with the President-elect to figure out where they go in terms of trade agreements in the future,” said Wally Adeyemo, deputy national security advisor for international economics. “But we continue to think that these types of deals make sense, simply because countries like China are not going to stop working on regional agreements.”
McConnell reiterated earlier this week what he had been saying for the past few months, that he has no plans to bring up TPP before the end of the year.
Congress is set to hold a lame-duck session next week but White House officials are now basically conceding that the TPP will be left up to President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump railed against TPP on the campaign trail and said he would withdraw the U.S. from the agreement during his first 100 days in office.
Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said on the same call Friday: “I would expect that the President [Obama] will have an opportunity to meet with the TPP leaders as a group while he is in Peru…Obviously we recognize the recent political developments in our country and how that affects TPP, but that’s all the more reason for the President to discuss with other TPP leaders the work they’ve done together and how we’re looking at issues related to trade going forward.”
Rhodes said the administration is “clear-eyed about the current situation” on TPP “but we believe what we believe about the value of trade and the importance of the Asia Pacific region to the United States. And I think given its size and importance, it’s going to have to continue to be a focus for the next President and Congress going forward no matter what.”
TPP includes the U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand and would have encompassed nearly 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product if enacted.
TPP was seen as a key component of Obama’s legacy. But it ran into a wave of antitrade sentiment during the presidential campaign, with both Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton opposing it.
It also ran into opposition on Capitol Hill among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
The ball was in the Obama administration’s court to send implementing TPP legislation to Congress but the opposition to the trade deal apparently left them with no choice but to drop it rather than trying to push it through a Congress where it was likely to fail.