TPP hangs on a knife edge in US House

By Leith van Onselen

The last realistic hope for scuttling the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement – the US House of Representatives vote on whether to grant President Obama so-called “Fast Track” authority so that the President can negotiate an agreement and have Congress pass it without amendment – is on a knife edge, with entrenched opposition from Democrats combining with right faction Republicans to oppose the deal. From The New York Times:

Only 17 Democrats out of 188 have come out in favor of so-called fast-track authority — and many of them are being hounded by labor and environmental groups to change their minds. Opponents of the trade deal say just seven Democrats remain truly undecided…

“We’re not quite there, but we’re getting close,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and co-author of the trade legislation. But Mr. Obama, he added, “needs to deliver some votes. It’s just that clear”…

Many of the most conservative Republicans simply do not want to give this president anything…

Meanwhile, The Atlantic is reporting that the vote for Fast Track is “too close to call” and will likely pass or fail “by a handful of votes”:

[In a] first for the Obama presidency, the White House has been left to whip votes without the public support of a single Democratic leader in Congress. “This thing is too close to call,” said Representative G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I predict it will either pass or fail by a handful of votes”…

Senior congressional aides in both parties say there are around 200 Republican votes for the bill, but just 17 or 18 Democrats—out of 188 total—in favor of it. That puts the count dangerously near the threshold of 217 or 218 (depending on how many absences there are) that the measure needs to pass.

As I have argued repeatedly for nearly two years, the TPP has absolutely nothing to do with advancing the cause of free trade. Rather, it is about significantly strengthening the pricing power of the powerful US pharmaceutical and digital industries, in turn lessening competition, and worsening outcomes for consumers and taxpayers alike.

Let’s hope that resistance from within the US Democratic Party is enough to prevent Fast Track authority, in turn scuttling the deal.

If you are an Australians concerned about the TPP, consider sending our politicians a message by signing this petition demanding public release of the TPP text.

[email protected]


  1. The 17 in support must be a who’s who list of the most corrupt in the Democratic party.

  2. And still deafening silence from the pharmacy guild’s of Australia. Could that be because they just got a 5 year extension on keeping their restrictive locations policy intact, and have no intention of making waves. The fact is the policy of restricting the opening of new pharmacies under this criteria is worth a great deal of good will for these pharmacies when it comes to dealing with the banks for loans so they are not going to do anything to upset the government of the day. Also in social circles i occasional run into individuals who are in the pharmacy guilds and on several recent occasions i have brought up this TPP to try and find out what the thinking is on that. Its frankly disappointing to say the least. The most common response i get is “Whats that ?” The ones who are aware of it dont think its a big deal, because the govt will always have to subsidies the meds regardless if they become more expensive, and two even said to me if meds do become more expensive its to their benefit because they calculate their profit margin per med as a percentage of the price, therefore higher cost, higher profit.

  3. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Asia is also about US putting a successor to WTO in place. It also negotiating Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe.

  4. “Rather, it is about significantly strengthening the pricing power of the powerful US pharmaceutical and digital industries”

    Look even deeper about who the TPP and TTIP includes and excludes. It’s a geopolitical play more than anything else to maintain the USA’s economic hegemony as “rule writer” of the global economic system. It is designed to thwart any possibility of the Chinese Silk Road and a Eurasian dominated economic order. Designed to hold USA’s stranglehold over Europe.