US elections and the TPP explained

9 March 2016

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the US elections you have probably heard that all the leading candidates are opposed to the TPP (albeit for very different reasons).

Hilary Clinton is the most likely Democratic Party candidate and while she did support the TPP negotiations as Secretary of State, after the text was released she said it didn’t meet her standards and she could not support it.

"I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, 'this will help raise your wages.' And I concluded I could not,” she said.

Bernie Sanders is even more strongly opposed, and has a record of having opposed previous agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

For his part Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has said the TPP is a “disaster” negotiated by “incompetent people.”

The TPP has to be ratified by at least six countries including both the US and Japan before it can come into force.

So what does it mean for the agreement if the main US presidential candidates don’t support it?

Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios:

1. Obama passes the TPP legislation through Congress this year

The current Congress remains in session after the presidential election in November until the end of December (known as the “lame duck” Congress).

Just weeks ago, President Obama said he would present the TPP implementing legislation to Congress this year and was “cautiously optimistic” that the agreement would be passed.  

It’s up in the air whether that will actually happen, given the strong opposition from both Democrats and Republicans in the current Congress - but it is still possible and it’s what the deal’s corporate supporters are banking on.

Since Congress did pass 'Trade Promotion Authority' last year it will make it less complicated to get the TPP through than it otherwise would be: it means the Congress will have to vote either yes or no to the whole agreement.

2. Congress does not pass the TPP legislation this year 

If Obama can’t get the numbers to pass the TPP in Congress before his term ends, the deal will be left in the hands of the new president to re-submit it for a vote to the newly elected Congress. It’s not at all clear in that scenario whether the new President would do so, or what a newly elected Congress will do.

Of course, even if this happens and either Trump or Clinton are elected, they could still change their minds about the deal or decide to put it to a vote regardless.

Where does that leave us?

In summary, there’s a good chance the US itself could fail to ratify the agreement and therefore prevent the deal from ever making it into force.

But there’s also a very good chance they won’t - and that’s why we can’t let our guard down and consider it a doomed deal just yet.

Here in Australia the TPP is currently being reviewed by a parliamentary committee before its implementation legislation will be put to a vote in our own Parliament.

This will happen regardless of what is going on in the US and it’s important we keep pushing for an independent assessment of the deal’s costs and benefits.

Submissions on the TPP are open until this Friday 11th of March. Have your say here.