California Legislature, Sacramento, USA - 31 Aug 2016

WASHINGTON — A broad group of brands, retailers and industry groups sent a letter to House and Senate lawmakers Thursday urging them to support the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The group, which included Macy’s Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., The Adidas Group, Ann Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Gap Inc., Michael Kors, Under Armour, PVH Corp. and VF Corp. asked lawmakers to support a vote on TPP this fall and to vote in favor of it.

TPP includes the U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand and would encompass nearly 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

The sweeping trade deal faces significant hurdles in Congress this fall, but the industry is ramping up its advocacy in the hopes it will be brought to a vote in the lame duck session after the November elections.

“For the U.S. footwear, apparel and travel goods industry — which still face high tariffs and other non-tariff trade barriers across TPP countries — the TPP represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce costs and open new markets for U.S. brands and retailers,” the companies and groups said in the letter. “The TPP will help our companies and brands, including those listed below, successfully compete at home and in TPP countries, and bring real benefits by reducing costs and returning greater value to our customers.”

Industry officials estimated that duty savings in the first year of enactment would exceed more than $1 billion as the U.S. and 11 TPP countries reduce tariffs and eliminate barriers to U.S.-made and branded exports.

“These savings will grow each year as the TPP provisions are phased-in and as new investment follows the agreement’s entry into force,” they stated in the letter. “These lower taxes strengthen our businesses and benefit our customers.”

They said U.S. consumers will be big beneficiaries if TPP is enacted, noting it will remove more than $2.8 billion of duties currently being charged on U.S. imports of footwear, apparel and travel goods, which will be passed on to consumers though price breaks and innovative products.

“Our industry accounts for more than four million American jobs, all of whom will benefit from our increased competitiveness due to the TPP as we reach more customers at home and in other TPP countries,” the companies and groups said. “Our workers will compete on a more level playing field if the TPP goes into effect. As we grow our businesses at home and abroad, we create new opportunities to employ more Americans throughout our supply chains — in our distribution centers, design houses, retail stores, and company and regional headquarters.”

They pledged to continue ensuring the safety and “empowerment” of workers who make their products and to source in a sustainable manner.

“Accordingly, we support the TPP’s strong and innovative environmental and labor provisions that complement the work we are doing on the ground, align with our company values, and further level the playing field for our products in the right way,” they wrote.

The Obama administration took a procedural step in early August and sent a draft statement of administrative action to Congress that lays out the changes needed to U.S. law under the trade deal.

The action incrementally advanced TPP along a procedural timeline by establishing a minimum of 30 calendar days by which the administration can now submit TPP legislation to Congress.

Until there is a stronger sign of an emerging consensus on TPP, the administration is unlikely to send the implementing legislation to Congress, officials said.

The chances of passing the sweeping trade deal in a lame duck session of Congress this year still appear slim.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump have reiterated their strong opposition to TPP and Clinton in particular has voiced opposition to a post-election TPP vote.

President Obama and several cabinet members have joined forces with former officials and key business groups to garner support for TPP, which is seen as a potential component of Obama’s legacy.

But it will ultimately be up to the leaders in Congress to bring the controversial trade deal up for a vote this year and both Senate and Republican leaders have expressed concerns about TPP and indicated the votes are not there to approve it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) recently said the chances are “pretty slim” that TPP will get a vote in the Senate this year.

In addition, trade experts have pointed to growing numbers of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stating opposition to TPP.

But business groups and former and present trade officials have vowed to continue fighting for TPP and seek to give it momentum this year.