Having secured a landmark trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations, President Obama is now relying on trade-loving Republicans to ratify it in Congress. But as details of the pact emerge, the chances of widespread GOP support are dicier than they once were.
Senior Republicans have long been the loudest cheerleaders for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In a reversal of the usual political dynamic, it was the GOP that carried the president’s request for “fast-track” negotiating authority earlier this year and saved him from an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his own party. Yet on Monday those same Republicans criticized the very deal that they gave Obama the power to strike, raising concerns that negotiators for the administration had sold out major U.S. industries in a final rush to finish the agreement.
“While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short,” complained Senator Orrin Hatch, a pro-trade Republican who, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will be key to passing the agreement. Of particular concern to Hatch and other Republicans is a provision excluding tobacco companies from being able to sue governments over regulations seen as targeting their industry. Another Republican, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, said that change from past trade agreements, which was cheered as a victory for public-health advocates, could lead him to vote against the TPP.
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