The international trade bill known as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) faced a major setback this week when Democrat Senators defied President Obama to block the ‘fast tracking’ of the bill.
A total of 45 Senators voted against the bill, which would have given Obama authority to negotiate on the TPP and then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed. The move means the bill did not secure the necessary 60 votes needed to pass the legislation, despite presidential as well as Republican support.
The Democrat revolt on the bill was primarily led by Democrat Senate Leader Harry Reid, as well as Elizabeth Warren, the senior US Senator from Massachusetts.
Their primary concern was that the agreement would enable countries to manipulate their currencies, which would provide them with an unfair trading advantage.
Warren has also said that she is concerned that the TPP could allow foreign corporations to challenge US regulations and that fast-track legislation could lead to trade agreements in the future that remove protections in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.
However, President Obama refuted Senator Warren’s concerns and said during an interview with Yahoo News: “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is… a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”
The TPP agreement, which is a free trade agreement between 12 nations including the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan, has been hugely controversial.
The negotiations for what conditions will be placed on entering the proposed free trade zone have been conducted in secret, with little to no transparency. In addition, selected corporate entities have been able to influence the negotiations, while the general public has not.
“For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the TPP trade deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line,” said Senator Warren in a statement.
A draft of the agreement was leaked to WikiLeaks in 2013, prompting widespread concern.
Intellectual property laws stood to be changed considerably in many countries, often to the benefit of large US corporations, while critical medicines would likely get significantly more expensive.
Organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as Medecins Sans Frontieres have expressed deep concern at the proposed agreement.
It is unclear where the TPP will go to from here following the failed Senate vote. Obama, as well as Republican lawmakers are determined to see the TPP take shape however, with an un-cooperative Senate this will be very difficult.